Supreme Court Tells Towns They Can Pray To Jesus All Night Long
Happy news, America -- your town councils can legally start meetings with prayers that are as full of Jebus as you want them to be! The SCOTUS ruled in a 5-4 decision that the town of Greece, New York, was not in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment clause, even though all but a few of the prayers offered by the council's guest chaplains were exclusively Christian. We're pretty sure that there's no way any other municipalities will take that sort of thing to extremes or anything. Why, yes, South Carolina, we are looking at you.
In voting to allow the Greece town council to get as Christian as it wants in its public prayers, the Court headed off the great fear of the Southern Baptists, who worried, when announcing their amicus brief in the case, that an insistence on non-sectarian ceremonial prayer would impose the equivalent of a "state-sponsored Unitarian church" on municipalities.
The Court has previously upheld nonsectarian ceremonial prayer -- to "God" or "Our Father in heaven" -- as acceptable, but the Greece case was different since, as Judge Guido Calabresi wrote in the 2nd Circuit court of appeals,
A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language ... Roughly two-thirds contained references to "Jesus Christ," "Jesus," "Your Son" or the Holy Spirit.”
However, since the town at least allows members all faiths, as well as atheists, to give the opening invocation, that's apparently enough for the SCOTUS, even though in practice the prayers were only delivered by Christian ministers. Justice Kennedy wrote that
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.
Two town residents had sued, since anyone coming before the council would have to listen to the explicitly sectarian prayers.
Now we just need to work on finding out how far the embrace of particular religions can be pushed in public meetings. Can't wait until we have some faith healing or snake handling before a vote on sewer rates. We're hoping that at least the occasional voudoun practitioner will get the chance to sacrifice a chicken.
[ NYT ]
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