Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Legislative Prayers Now in Danger

The town of Greece, New York always starts its city council meetings with a prayer. Recently, an atheist woman and Jewish woman sued to prohibit the prayer, arguing that it made them feel excluded. Most of the prayers have been said by Christians, but any one has been welcome to volunteer to lead the prayer. In the past, prayers have been occasionally been said by a Jewish man, by a Baha'i leader, and even by a Wiccan priestess. However, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the prayers in Greece, New York, saying they amount to an endorsement of Christianity.

This case is already in the U.S. Supreme Court. 34 U.S. Senators have filed an amicus brief on behalf of the town council. They are concerned that if the Supreme Court upholds the lower court's decision, that will call into question all prayers in legislative bodies including those said in Congress, and possibly even the existence of congressional chaplains. This case has put all legislative prayers in danger, whether they are said in Congress, in state legislatures, or even in small town council meetings. 85 Members of the House of Representatives have also filed their own brief, calling on the Supreme Court to reject the so-called "endorsement" test. The endorsement test is the current standard for whether an activity violates the First Amendment. It asks whether a "reasonable person" would think the activity amounts to an endorsement of a religion, a question that is highly subjective and broadly applied.

This test case will give the Supreme Court the opportunity to rule on the endorsement standard The Justices could replace it with a looser rule called a "coercion standard," which would ask whether an activity makes members of other religions feel coerced into participating. That allows more religious freedom in the public square than the endorsement test. It's anybody's guess what the Supreme Court Justices will do.

Listen to the radio commentary here:



1 comment:

Life in the Bible Institute said...

Simple solution. They could give their life over to Jesus Christ and thereby become Christians. Then they would not feel excluded in the prayers.

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