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Noah Feldman

James Madison Would've Backed Phoenix's Satanists

City council's prayer ban shows First Amendment in action.
Make that a moment of silence, please.

Make that a moment of silence, please.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer

The Phoenix City Council has voted to no longer to begin its meetings with a public prayer. Sounds like a victory for the separation of church and state, right? Maybe even the influence of Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in the Town of Greece case, in which the court’s majority allowed such prayers to continue?

Think again. The Phoenix City Council is banning prayer so that self-described Satanists won’t have a chance to give one. The decision isn’t about tolerance but intolerance. In the end, that’s a good thing, a sign of the establishment clause working -- and of James Madison’s First Amendment logic in action.