By Tom Ehrich

The Supreme Court's latest venture into the culture wars -- allowing prayer before a town meeting in upstate New York -- isn't about religious freedom, the First Amendment, or asking God's guidance on civic affairs.

It's about shelf space.

It's about the Christian franchise getting prime shelf space at eye level and, as these things tend to play out, conservative Christians getting the bigger share of that shelf.

You can be sure that Muslims and Jews will rarely be invited to lead the prayers, that the Roman Catholic turn will go to a traditional Catholic and not to a liberation theology advocate like Pope Francis, that successful churches will get the honors and outlying expressions of faith will be overlooked.

Having given such prayers myself before Charlotte Hornets basketball games, I know the opening prayer is a minor blip in the proceedings. Hardly worth fighting over.

It's like Coca-Cola and Pepsi bullying or buying the grocery owner to dedicate an entire aisle to their products, and then Coke getting more than Pepsi.

Meanwhile, no one asks why so many feet of shelf space go to a flavored-water product known to worsen obesity.

That, you see, is the message that the majority of community members probably will receive, namely, that churches are building their franchise, looking out for their own interests, bickering over shelf space -- one more time.

Meanwhile, the true interests of the community, the real problems that citizens encounter, will go unnoticed. Prayer leaders will wax eloquent. But will they press the council to address inadequate employment, low wages for teachers, epidemic drug use, domestic violence, school bullying, corruption on the council, and rising fear among the elderly?

Not likely. Not in an election year, with culture-war points to score.

And so another generation of young adults -- who do care about such matters -- will turn away from a movement dominated by bickering religionists.

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