A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.
The court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.
“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.
The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan ... ► Read the full article by Robert Barnes in The Washington Post
Source: The Washington Post
Author: Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He joined the paper to cover Maryland politics, and has served in various editing positions including metropolitan editor and national political editor . He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006. He gave up law school plans for a life in newspapers after taking a journalism class in college. It did not occur to him, as it apparently did to others, that he could do both ... more
Photo: Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck, of Faith and Action, right, prays in front of the Supreme Court with Raymond Moore, center and Patty Bills, both also of Faith and Action, during a news conference, Monday, May 5, 2014, in Washington, after speaking in favor of the ruling by the court's conservative majority that was a victory for the town of Greece, N.Y., outside of Rochester. A narrowly divided Supreme Court upheld decidedly Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings on Monday, declaring them in line with long national traditions though the country has grown more religiously diverse ... more│AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster