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Supreme Court allows prayers in meetings

Sign of the cross
Photo by Scott Paulson

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that prayers that open town council meetings do not violate the United States Constitution in spite of the fact that the prayers routinely stress Christianity, according to a Yahoo! News report on Monday morning. The split decision by the high court, 5-to-4, decided that the content of the prayers is not significant. However, the content of the prayers must not denigrate non-Christians or attempt to convert persons from one religion to another. With this decision by the Supreme Court justices, prayer is deemed allowable at government meetings.

The high court’s ruling by the court’s conservative majority is seen as a grand victory for Greece, New York – a small town outside of Rochester in upper-state New York. Beyond the conservatives on the Supreme Court, it has been reported that the Obama administration also agreed with the town’s wanting of prayers in their council meetings, according to a USA Today report.

Writing the majority decision for the high court, Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted that the prayers are ceremonial and in keeping with the traditions of the United States of America. Once again, Justice Elena Kagan took to the liberal justice’s side of the issue and said that she respectfully dissented from the Court’s opinion because she thinks the town of Greece’s prayer practices violate that norm of religious equality – the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that the nation’s public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian. Again, prayer is now allowed.

Previously, a New York federal appeals court ruled that the town of Greece violated the U.S. Constitution by opening nearly every one of its meetings with prayers that stressed Christianity for approximately 11 years. In that case, it was said that every meeting in Greece was begun with a Christian-oriented invocation from 1999 through 2007 and again from January 2009 to June 2010. A town employee has selected clerics or lay people each month by using a local published guide of churches. The guide doesn’t include non-Christian denominations. The appeals court couldn’t find a religious institution in the town that was non-Christian.

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