Public prayers: Freedom prevails
Americans once again are more free to exercise their freedom of religion, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court ruled Monday, and along the expected 5-4 conservative-liberal split, that ceremonial prayer indeed is permitted to open public government meetings and is not an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
The case came out of Greece, N.Y., where council meetings began with such an invocation. A Jewish resident and an atheist took umbrage, claiming that because only Christians tended to deliver the prayers, the Constitution's Establishment Clause was being violated. A federal district court sided with the town while a federal appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, not only noted that such prayers have been a part of this nation's public meetings since the Founding, he reminded that Greece offered clergy of all faiths — and even atheists — the opportunity to open the meetings. And the local government did not screen or otherwise control prayer content. Given the religious demographics of the upstate New York community, most of the prayers were Christian in nature.
But as Mr. Justice Kennedy noted, citing the practice of using appointed and visiting chaplains “to express themselves in a religious idiom” in opening sessions of Congress, “It acknowledges our growing diversity not by proscribing sectarian content but by welcoming ministers of many creeds.”
The court's bottom line, and one on which we all should reflect: “(G)overnment may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- The ‘Truthy’ project: We are suspect
- Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
- Alle-Kiski Tuesday takes
- Common Core: Rotten politics
- Greensburg Tuesday takes
- The IRS scandal: Do the Lois Lerner emails still exist?
- U.N. watch: The missiles question