US Supreme Court Allows Prayers at Town Meetings

US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court

Source: NY Times

By  MAY 5, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “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 that authority of government to alter or define.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

Town officials said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, the federal appeals court in New York said, almost all of the chaplains were Christian.

Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion.

In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with an invocation from a paid Presbyterian minister, saying that such ceremonies were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.”

The plaintiffs in the case from Greece, New York, said their case was different. The prayers at the town board meetings were often explicitly sectarian, they said, and residents of the town, outside of Rochester, were forced to listen to them in order to participate in local government.

The appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, agreed that the 1983 decision did not govern the case before it.

“A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language,” Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court. “Roughly two-thirds contained references to ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘Your Son’ or the ‘Holy Spirit.’”

Read further

Additional Reading

Solomonic wisdom needed to establish Separation of Mosque-Church-Synagogue and State

9 replies

  1. Agnostics and atheists will not like to pray to anyone and Jews and Muslims will certainly not like to pray to Jesus, whom they think to be a man, even though the Muslims revere him as a noble prophet of God.

    On the surface it may feel good to every religious person, as he or she likes to pray to the Transcendent God of Unitarian Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

    But, this is surely violation of freedom of religion and could change USA into Talibanistan, one step at a time.

    Netanyahu wants Israel to be a Jewish state, Taliban want Pakistan to be a theocracy guided by their medieval understanding of Islam, here is Supreme court of USA, a country cherished for its religious freedoms, now siding with the Christian majority, guided by the Republican party agenda. Soon Modi would want India to be a Hindu country.

    I guess, the agnostics and atheists in USA would now need to buddy with religious minorities, including the Muslims, rather than their right wing Christian buddies, with whom they grew up.

  2. I like your approach, brother Zia.
    This can lead to something like that if left unchecked.

  3. Zia,
    Just in what way does the decision violate the freedom of religion? The court held that whoever does not like the prayer was free to stay away.
    You never saw a violation of religion in those cases where the courts held that muhammadan practices were ‘constitutional’ while the Christian ones were not.
    In Skoros v. City of New York, 2006, a lower court held that it was constitutional for public schools to display Jewish and muhammadan religious holiday symbols but not Christian ones. See the decisions in Eklund v.Byron U.S.D, 2005. In none of these did you or anyone of your ilk call it the Talibaization of America. To all of you in that crowd, those decisions showed ‘democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of worship’, even when it was so cruelly against the religion of the vast majority.
    You do not have any problem with a country calling itself ‘islamic’ or basing its constitution on the quran. But all hell is let loose when there is the least semblance of another religion being mentioned.
    The Supreme Court has decided. Those who do not like it are free to leave America. The decision of the same Supreme Court in ‘The Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States’ was that the US is a Christian country. That decision, which was given before the turn of the last century, still remains valid since the Supreme Court has not reversed itself on it.

  4. Zia Shah, Wow! talk of making a mountain out of a mole hill. Dont you think “But, this is surely violation of freedom of religion and could change USA into Talibanistan, one step at a time.” is little bit too radical on your part. Considering Islam wants a say in all countries that it permeates into but not giving the same level playing field to other religions in countries where they are in the majority.
    You can talk about Talibanisation, India being a Hindu country (It is because Hinduism is in the majority – though all religions are allowed to practice and flower), & Jewish state only when Islam allows other faiths to do the same in its own backyard.
    Till then all the suras you quote regarding “all religions being equal” etc., etc., are just empty rhetoric.

  5. Only God can judge the living and the dead. Ask the Koran which says Christ is the righteous judge who will judge on Judgement Day. So what does that make Christ?
    I feel it is better for you to pray to Christ and find out He is not God. Than make fun of Him (like you chaps have been doing in TMT) and find out HE IS.

Leave a Reply