Prayer is considered part of the fabric of our nation, so says the Supreme Court in a major ruling for the City Council in the town of Greece, New York.
Hat tip: Jennifer Burke on Tea Party News Network (TPNN)
In Greece, NY, every meeting was opened with a prayer. Two residents, however, had a problem with the prayer being Christian based and filed suit over that practice in 2008. Today, the Supreme Court overturned the decision by a federal appeals court in New York and ruled 5-4 that saying a prayer, even if is overwhelmingly a Christian prayer, prior to an open town council meeting does not violate the Constitution.
The ruling is seen as a victory for not only Greece, but for other city councils or other government meetings that may also begin their gathering with a Christian prayer.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on the court’s decision including statements made by Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, and Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the dissenting opinion for the four liberal Supreme Court justices.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the prayers are ceremonial and in keeping with the nation’s traditions.
“The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers,” Kennedy said.
Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissent for the court’s four liberal justices, said the case differs significantly from the 1983 decision because “Greece’s town meetings involve participation by ordinary citizens, and the invocations given — directly to those citizens — were predominantly sectarian in content.”
Greece is a town just outside of Rochester with 100,000 residents, the majority of who are Christian. Even the two individuals who filed the lawsuit against the saying of a Christian prayer, Susan Galloway and Linda Stevens, said they knew of no non-Christian places of worship in the town.
He added, “Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.”
Today’s Supreme Court ruling is in line with a previous ruling in 1983 on a similar issue. The Nebraska legislature had the practice of an opening prayer and found itself at the center of a lawsuit. At that time, the court upheld the prayer practice stating that it was not in violation of the First Amendment and is, indeed, part of the nation’s fabric.