Some people get very annoyed about what they believe are frivolous or extremist lawsuits, or lawsuits with a seemingly disproportionate award of damages (the hot coffee-McDonald’s comes to mind). Some of the lawsuits that fall into these categories may well be only fodder for late night monologues, but others may serve the important purpose of keeping “systems” in check and tweaking the law until it becomes “the most just” that it can be on the balance.
Trying to put the recent case–filed by a graduating Texas high school student that sought to silence a valedictorian’s prayer–into one of these categories (fodder or important purpose) was difficult. This particular issue has been brought before the courts on many occasions…enough so that there is little likelihood that a state school is going to mandate religion in public school. Perhaps, then, it does not belong in the important purpose file. But it was hard to put it in the “fodder only” file since the non-profit used donation money as well as legal and judicial resources when, at the end of the day, if the speech/prayer went forward as planned, there might have been about 30 seconds of very mild mental discomfort to the atheist-student. Much milder than when someone refuses to let you merge into practically standstill traffic on the highway, or when a new checkout opens at the store and the last person in line quickly jumps over to it.
Maybe it is time for some “higher laws” (not in the religious sense, of course) that prevail over other laws or doctrines (“separation of church and state” is more of a doctrine than law). A higher law might provide something like, “If it is not really all that important (e.g., if at the end of the day, you and yours, and them and theirs are all still alive, well, and whole), let it go because legal and judicial resources should be reserved for important matters that end up with people being less than alive, well, and whole.”
Now, clearly this sort of higher law would cut into the ability of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) to file some lawsuits. They still could file many lawsuits because some people (and some school districts) do the darnedest things despite what the law says. But the rule of this “higher law” would still affect AUSCS’s ability to file a few cases. But then maybe AUSCS could put their reserved legal prowess and resources to good work in other areas that leave people less than alive, well, and whole. Or, maybe AUSCS could amend their name to Americans United for Both Religious Tolerance and the Separation of Church and State, and spend the extra resources promoting tolerance of slight, fleeting mental discomfort for the greater good of society.