Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Supreme Court Upholds Prayer

Surprise, surprise. The U.S. Supreme Court finally did something good. The Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution allows town boards to start their sessions with prayer. It was a 5-to-4 decision, dividing the conservatives from the liberals, with Justice Anthony Kennedy writing the majority opinion. The court ruled that a town in upstate New York called Greece did not violate the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer led by a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian and sometimes even mentioned Jesus in his prayer. Justice Kennedy ruled that the prayer was ceremonial and served to signal the solemnity of the occasion. This ruling cleared the way for prayers before meetings of local governments all over the country. The decision was built on one from 1983 that allowed prayers at the start of legislative sessions. Justice Kennedy said the prayers in both legislatures and town boards were “meant to lend gravity to the occasion and reflect values long part of the nation’s heritage.” Barack Obama’s appointee to the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan, dissented, trying to claim prayer is was forbidden by the First Amendment. The town officials in Greece, New York, near Rochester, said members of all faiths and even atheists were welcome to give the opening prayer.

The people who sued to shut down the prayers said the prayers offended them and “made them feel excluded and disrespected.” But Justice Kennedy said we often encounter speech we find disagreeable, but the legislative bodies are not doing something constitutionally impermissible merely by saying a prayer that somebody “would rather not hear and in which they need not participate.” Prayer started with our first Congress. Congress has paid for official chaplains without interruption ever since our country was founded and we must not let atheists take that away.

Listen to the radio commentary here:

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