The Supreme Court ruled today that opening public meetings with prayer is allowed and not in violation of our nation??s constitution.
The Supreme Court in 5-4 decision says that civic prayer does not violate the constitution, even when opening a meeting with a prayer that favors a certain religion.
Two women in Greece, New York sued their town??s officials over invocations or opening prayers at public meetings because they specifically referenced Jesus Christ in their prayers. Their case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, and the majority opinion affirmed that there s a historical precedent for the practice of opening local legislative meetings with prayer.
??Our practice falls very much in line with the city of Greece New York, the opinion that was issued today,?? said Marcus Norris, the City Attorney of Amarillo. ??We have prayers, it solemnizes the occasion and it reminds people that we??re here to lay aside our individual differences and appeal to some higher power that we can unite and have good governance.??
Elena Kagan, a dissenting Supreme Court Justice said in her opinion that every ??citizen irrespective of their religion owns a piece of government.?? Local civil rights lawyer Jeff Blackburn agrees, and said that religion has no place in government.
??We can have a totally Christian, one religion prayer and it??s fine,?? said Jeff Blackburn. ??This is because we never drew the line hard when it should have been drawn and said we don??t do religion in the government.??
Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the Supreme Court case, said that drawing the line from the bench as to what prayers are permitted ??is perilous?? and that ??the prayers reflect predominantly Christian character of the town??s congregations.??
Pastor Howard Batson of the First Baptist Church of Amarillo said that civic prayer doesn??t necessary mean that you??re violating the separation of church and state.
??This is America, there is a certain level of civil religion despite the separation of church and state, and one isn??t compromising one??s beliefs to allow a general blessing upon a legislative body before they begin to make decisions?? said Howard Batson.
There is far from a consensus among clergy regarding this issue. David Green of the Unitarian Church urges people who do invocations to consider the diversity of their crowd.
??Ministers should consider their crowd; is everyone in the city or in the state sharing their particular religious views; I kind of doubt it,?? said David Green.
In sum, the Supreme Court Decisions means that prayers, even if they are Christian in nature, can open government meetings, as they say it is fairly common tradition in our society. There is little doubt that this issue will continue to be a point of contention, as our country grows more diverse religiously.