The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the centuries-old tradition of offering prayers at the start of government meetings, even if those prayers are overwhelmingly Christian.
The 5-4 decision in favor of the any-prayer-goes policy in the town of Greece, N.Y., avoided two alternatives that the justices clearly found abhorrent: having government leaders parse prayers for sectarian content, or outlawing them altogether.
It was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, with the court’s conservatives agreeing and its liberals, led by Justice Elena Kagan, dissenting.
The long-awaited ruling following oral arguments in November was a victory for the the town, which was taken to court by two women who argued that a plethora of overtly Christian prayers at town board meetings violated their rights.
Also from Justice Kennedy’s decision today:
“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,” he said.
A court order had forced Carroll County, Maryland to stop opening county commission meetings with a sectarian prayer in the past, but some commissioners defied that order, with the judge in that case threatening contempt. This ruling today could support the position of Commissioners Frazier and Richard Rotschild, but that remains to be seen.
Robin Frazier, a County Commissioner had made this comment about that past order:
“I am willing to go to jail. If we cease to believe our rights came from God, we cease to be America. And we’ve been told to ‘be careful,’ but we’re going to be careful all the way to communism and I say no to this ruling.”
Delegate Ron George, a Republican candidate for MD Governor, posted the following reaction on Facebook:
Religion was never intended to be “privatized”, (hidden behind close doors and done in privacy). The founders of our country knew that this is what builds prejudice and misunderstanding and hatred for people of belief. England did it against the Catholics. Nazi Germany against the Jews.
The Supreme Court ruled correctly today. We should show “tolerance” for all religions.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.