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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk bklynboy68's Avatar
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    Default Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Government Meetings

    High court ruling favors prayer at council meeting

    May 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Monday that prayers that open town council meetings do not violate the Constitution even if they routinely stress Christianity.

    The court said in 5-4 decision that the content of the prayers is not significant as long as officials make a good-faith effort at inclusion.

    The ruling was a victory for the town of Greece, N.Y., outside of Rochester.

    In 1983, the court upheld an opening prayer in the Nebraska legislature and said that prayer is part of the nation's fabric, not a violation of the First Amendment. Monday's ruling was consistent with the earlier one.

    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."

    A federal appeals court in New York ruled that Greece violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.

    From 1999 through 2007, and again from January 2009 through June 2010, every meeting was opened with a Christian-oriented invocation. In 2008, after residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens complained, four of 12 meetings were opened by non-Christians, including a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and the chairman of the local Baha'i congregation.

    A town employee each month selected clerics or lay people by using a local published guide of churches. The guide did not include non-Christian denominations, however. The appeals court found that religious institutions in the town of just under 100,000 people are primarily Christian, and even Galloway and Stephens testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there.

    The two residents filed suit and a trial court ruled in the town's favor, finding that the town did not intentionally exclude non-Christians. It also said that the content of the prayer was not an issue because there was no desire to proselytize or demean other faiths.

    But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that even with the high court's 1983 ruling, the practice of having one Christian prayer after another amounted to the town's endorsement of Christianity.

    Kennedy, however, said judges should not be involved in evaluating the content of prayer because it could lead to legislatures requiring "chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere."

    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."

    Kennedy himself was the author an opinion in 1992 that held that a Christian prayer delivered at a high school graduation did violate the Constitution. The justice said Monday there are differences between the two situations, including the age of the audience and the fact that attendees at the council meeting may step out of the room if they do not like the prayer.

    The case is Greece v. Galloway, 12-696




    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories...MPLATE=DEFAULT
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  2. #2
    Atomic Punk Dave's Dreidel's Avatar
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    As a Christian myself, I totally disagree with this opinion.

    How can you have "inclusion" in prayer when there are multitude of religions in the world. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, Scientology...the list goes on and on.

    Not counting all the different sects of each religion.
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    Spend 3 hours allowing every religion to say their prayers. Then 20 minutes talking about real issues.

    Sounds about right for a council meeting.
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    Seems like a sensible ruling - as long as it's open to all as to who gets to lead the prayer, then I don't see what is the problem. People need to stop wasting time and money litigating over practices such as this that date back to the time the Constitution was adopted.

    I must say, though, that Justice Thomas' concurrence is kind of disturbing unless I'm misreading it. It says the establishment clause is a federalism provision only. That is, the only government entity prohibiting from establishing a state religion is the federal gov't, essentially because that would interfere with a State's right to establish an official religion, and that States could adopt an official religion if so inclined.

    I'm willing to sit through prayers, but draw the line at having to pay the preacher giving it and/or being forced to participate.

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    Considering sessions of Congress have been opened with a prayer for a long time, I have a hard time being concerned about the same situations at council meetings.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

  6. #6
    Atomic Punk Dave's Dreidel's Avatar
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    Why do we feel the need to have prayer to open up a governmental meeting?

    When about 98% of the US population were active Christians, yeah, you could make the argument.

    But that is no longer the case. I know I wouldn't participate in an Islamic prayer, and I would be really annoyed to have to sit through it. And if I feel that way, why should I make someone else do the same, albeit in reverse?
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    Atomic Punk bsbll4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave's Dreidel View Post
    Why do we feel the need to have prayer to open up a governmental meeting?

    When about 98% of the US population were active Christians, yeah, you could make the argument.

    But that is no longer the case. I know I wouldn't participate in an Islamic prayer, and I would be really annoyed to have to sit through it. And if I feel that way, why should I make someone else do the same, albeit in reverse?
    I guess you don't have to, but if someone wants to I don't see the harm. I've only gone to a few local committee meetings myself, but on one occassion everyone was there because the town was riled up about a specific issue. After someone opened with a brief, fairly non-denominational prayer, it helped cool everyone's engines a bit and put things in perspective, even if that emotion was fleeting.

    I don't want to sit through a 4 minute long Islamic chant, but if there's a large contingent of muslims in the room, I understand it. It means much more to the people saying the prayer than it does to the people who don't want to hear it. There is a fine line, to be sure. The last thing we want is for anyone to feel their views or opinions are being shunned because they don't belong to the group that recites the prayer, but as long as there is no hostility to it, there shouldn't be any harm to it.

    I look at it this way. When I go out to eat, I'm not going to go out of my way to sit next to a table with a person with special needs who is groaning through the entire meal, but I'm certainly not going to be offended by it if I sit next to them or ask to move. I'm going to be polite, ignore it, and move on with my day so the people at that table can enjoy theirs. I think the same principle can apply here: politely stay silent, ignore it, then move on with the day.
    CNN may think my opinion matters, but you shouldn't.

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    A group of young people at my kids high school used to gather around the flag pole before school and pray. Everyone was welcome. This was done by the kids before school and they were all in their seats before the bell rang. To my knowledge, no one was offended or had a issue with it. Might work in this case as well.


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  9. #9
    Atomic Punk Dave's Dreidel's Avatar
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    Voluntary prayer on their own time is one thing, but prayer as part of an official government meeting is altogether different in my mind.
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    Default Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Government Meetings

    Seems much ado about nothing. It isn't an official part of the meeting, so it wasn't "government business," and no one is forced to be part of it.

    People often feel they've been affected by something, but that's different from actually being affected by something.

    A group of people—even in government or not—can choose to pray together, if they want, as long as it's not official government business and as long as no one is coerced.

    Being offended at people exercising their first amendment rights to religious and speech freedom is what happens in a free country. But that's not illegal.

  11. #11
    Atomic Punk bklynboy68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave's Dreidel View Post
    Why do we feel the need to have prayer to open up a governmental meeting?

    When about 98% of the US population were active Christians, yeah, you could make the argument.

    But that is no longer the case. I know I wouldn't participate in an Islamic prayer, and I would be really annoyed to have to sit through it. And if I feel that way, why should I make someone else do the same, albeit in reverse?
    "The prayer opportunity in this case must be evaluated against the backdrop of historical practice," the majority wrote in its opinion. "As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of 'God save the United States and this honorable Court' at the opening of this Court's sessions."

    The majority justices further argued that the intended audience is not "the public, but lawmakers themselves."
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014...ncil-meetings/

    If the lawmakers want to pray before they begin, I don't have a problem.
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  12. #12
    Atomic Punk Dave's Dreidel's Avatar
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    The assumption being that all lawmakers are wanting to participate...in modern day America, I find that hard to believe.

    If you have ten lawmakers, and all ten want to pray, ok. But that is not going to happen very often.

    I agree with the opinion of the Court that certain traditions, such as "God save the United States and this honorable Court" are just that, traditions. And they are brief. And that is fine. That really isn't a prayer.

    Prayers can be long, and rambling, and have absolutely nothing to do with the task at hand. This is not a Christian country, no matter how people try to spin it, and I bet most people who support this decision would NOT support it if the vast majority of the prayers being uttered were Islamic prayers.
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  13. #13
    Atomic Punk bklynboy68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave's Dreidel View Post
    The assumption being that all lawmakers are wanting to participate...in modern day America, I find that hard to believe.

    If you have ten lawmakers, and all ten want to pray, ok. But that is not going to happen very often.

    I agree with the opinion of the Court that certain traditions, such as "God save the United States and this honorable Court" are just that, traditions. And they are brief. And that is fine. That really isn't a prayer.

    Prayers can be long, and rambling, and have absolutely nothing to do with the task at hand. This is not a Christian country, no matter how people try to spin it, and I bet most people who support this decision would NOT support it if the vast majority of the prayers being uttered were Islamic prayers.

    Except that as a society and a nation , we have done just fine with this practice. I have attended council meetings where a rabbi gave the prayer and somehow we made it just fine. The councils reflect their constituency and if they are in a majority Buddhist community, then I would expect that one day a head monk would lead a prayer. We are a nation with a majority Christian population founded on Judeo- Christian values. We have allowed non Christians to bless proceedings and nobody has gotten hurt. Also, the communities are not the ones who have a problem with this. It's deep pocket anti religious organizations leading the charge on all these lawsuits. We have somehow existed with this practice for over 200 years and we've survived.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave's Dreidel View Post
    I bet most people who support this decision would NOT support it if the vast majority of the prayers being uttered were Islamic prayers.
    BINGO.

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    Default Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Government Meetings

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave's Dreidel View Post
    Voluntary prayer on their own time is one thing, but prayer as part of an official government meeting is altogether different in my mind.

    That was the point of my post. Do it before the meeting. Not in the chamber/ town hall.


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