First Amendment Lemon Case

Constitutional Freedoms

Making Lemonade Out of the Lemon Test

There is no shortage of issues that Nevadans are currently having to contend with, and will try to overcome this year. Inflation is exploding through roof. Our children and families are clearly under attack. Open borders provide fentanyl to kill an American every 7 seconds. The illegals (from over 150 countries) who stream across will quickly undercut our wages and have overwhelmed our community centers, public schools, and emergency rooms.  At the same time, election integrity and transparency is still in question. And if the summer of 2020 is any indicator of what this election year could be like, then just brace yourself for another wild ride.

Watching recent video clips of the absolute contempt for our country and Western civilization on most of our college campuses, a chilling preview of things to come is presented. When this new crop of indoctrinated Leftists “graduate” with worthless degrees in tow, largely unemployable, angry, confused, and well-funded and manipulated by Marxist organizations, their collective fuses will be quick to take this built up angst out on the rest of decent society in our American streets and cities.

For those of us who want to provide solutions rather than chaos and complaints, there are myriad ways to reverse our failing culture and political fiascos.  But the problems to tackle can be a little overwhelming, and it is easy to feel alone in the fight.  If you have been paying attention however, despite all the madness and upheaval in our communities, there is also a steady and calm undercurrent of believers in God and Biblical values who continue to grow their presence and visibility.  Although a little late to the game, many people of faith have finally come to realize that this country is smack dab in the middle of a spiritual battle, the likes of which we have never seen.

What to do?  As previously mentioned, the dartboard is full of very real and serious problems in which to address and ultimately heal. As the saying goes, it is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Ultimately, each of us will be guided to the right spiritual arena in which to wrestle principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and wickedness.

No matter which direction you take, there is something we all can do to begin to take back spiritual ground ceded over the past several generations. And this can lead to restoring our collective faith and God-centered values.  Over the past 80 years, the symbols of our faith were systematically removed from the public square, public institutions, and public consciousness.  But we have a tremendous opportunity to bring all of them back to remind the rest of America that we are still a Christian nation and God is our one true lawmaker.

In 2022, several landmark decisions took place in the Supreme Court.  The one that garnered most of the attention was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which re-established federalism and sent the issue of abortion back to the States.  At almost the same time and flying just under the radar, was another seminal court opinion, which was Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

If you are not familiar with the case, Coach Joseph Kennedy was fired by his Washington state high school for regularly praying after football games at mid-field.  Exercising his First Amendment right was done alone for many years without any notice or fanfare. Eventually, some of the student-athletes on the team asked if they could join in giving thanks to God after their games.  All told, this practice was faithfully done for 8 years until a Godless school administration was alerted and took action.  Coach Kennedy was asked and then demanded to stop this practice, as the school district wrongly thought that his prayer on school grounds violated the tired old myth of “separation of church and state.”  (Note: for greater depth into correcting this Constitutional misconception, look up my article in the Nevada Signal covering this topic)

Having served in the Marines for over 20 years and actively fighting for his freedom of speech, Coach Kennedy refused to take a knee to the administration and continued to bow before God alone.  Once fired, Coach Kennedy began the arduous and diligent process of filing and testifying in federal court.  It took him another 8 years to arrive in the Supreme Court.  The court rendered its opinion that Coach Kennedy, under the First Amendment, could lawfully practice his God-given rights of speech and freedom of religion.  Those somewhat familiar with the case might not know is — that his case reversed 50 years of terrible jurisprudence.

In 1971, another seminal case entitled, “Lemon v. Kurtzman” established a devastating precedent in removing the historical and vital role of the Christian religion and its symbols in all of our public institutions.  Out of thin air, the court created what was known as “The Lemon Test”, a three-pronged test to determine if state statutes violated the “Establishment Clause” found in the First Amendment.  This opened the door to the methodical removal of almost all symbols of Christianity from government buildings and schools.  Nativity scenes, crosses, Ten Commandment tablets, and many other evidences of our founding as a Christian nation were wrongly deemed to be unconstitutional.  The Lemon Test was cited and used in over 7,000 federal court cases to undermine our Christian moorings.

So, now is the appropriate time to thank Coach Kennedy in your prayers for staying diligent and faithful in this process, because his case has righted the judicial wrongs of the past 50 years.  Every single one of these federal court cases using the Lemon Test can be challenged and re-litigated using the correct standard, which is the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.  Public school classrooms, county courthouses, city halls, police and fire stations, you name it – can confidently display symbols of their Christian faith again.  But it is up to Christians who serve in those buildings to re-establish their presence.

One of the most amazing stats I have come across is that 85% of all gang members want to “jump out” and leave their gang life.  But they are often intimidated and stifled by the other 15%, especially when they do not know who is who.  As often is the case, a vocal and violent minority plays the tyrant over the silent and peaceful majority.

Imagine if we began to see a reemergence of these Christian symbols, which more accurately represent the majority of Nevadans. What if these examples of our Godly heritage were once again prominent in our streets and our culture, rather than only casinos and slot machines?  That is a Nevada I look forward to seeing.  How about you?

(By Doug Powell)

(The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Nevada Signal.)