I have not been too concerned about the religious right's stated desire to take over the federal courts, because as everyone knows the courts already have a majority of Republican appointed judges and yet those are the same judges who are writing the decisions the religious right decries as "anti-Christian." The new religious right jurisprudence just isn't accepted even in the conservative legal mainstream. But now I'm rethinking my position after learning about the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed a Virginia county to ban a Wiccan practitioner (a self-described witch) from giving the invocation at Board of Supervisors meetings.
The decision (which can be read here in pdf format) seems to rest on a couple of contradictory points. First, that because the county didn't identify a particular sect as its favored sect (the court felt it important to emphasize that the county allowed Muslims and "Spanish-speaking Protestants" to deliver the invocation), they hadn't established a religion. Second, the court interpreted some testimony from the plaintiff as indicating that she was a polytheist (even though she described herself as a "monotheistic witch") and ruled that it is OK for a county to determine that polytheistic religions are out of bounds for public prayer, evidently because those religions are not part of the "American civil religion," whatever that is supposed to mean.
Seems to me that either the county is favoring some religions over others, or they aren't. It's a pretty narrow view of the Establishment Clause to say that all that is prohibited is the endorsement of a particular brand of Christianity over other brands. And in view of the religious right talking point that conservative Protestants and Catholics alike are part of a "community of faith," the potential for mischief from this idea is pretty obvious.
Oh, and the opinion is written by J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, who is widely mentioned as a possible Bush appointee the next time a Supreme Court seat becomes available, which could be as early as this summer. Could this opinion be part of an audition for the expected vacancy?
This issue isn't going to go away either. Wicca (or neo-paganism in general) is the fastest growing religion in the United States, and it looks to me like Denver is one of the more Wiccan-friendly communities around. (Or maybe that's just the people I hang out with.) There is a certain tradition of keeping witchcraft in the closet, but with so many more people becoming Wiccans, and with religion in general being allowed such a strong, visible role in government these days, battles over Wiccan inclusion are bound to continue. And that isn't necessarily a good thing. Like the bumper sticker says, the last time we mixed politics and religion, people got burned at the stake.