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On May 6, the USA Today featured a front page article – ‘Public Prayer Gets a Boost’ that noted that “the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the case – Town of Greece, NY vs. Galloway. Coverage was broad in major newspapers from coast-to-coast including the Wall Street Journal (‘Supreme Court Permits Prayer at Greece, N.Y., Board Meetings’).
The articles in both the USA Today and the Wall Street Journal are worth reading, as they capture the complexity of the Court’s decision in striking the balance between ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘separation of church vs. state’. Snapshots of both the majority opinion and minority opinion are reflected below that capture the complexity of this decision.
Speaking for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy remarked: “Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.”
To frame the issue, the Wall Street Journal highlights that “the Supreme Court has long prohibited federal and state governments from endorsing one religion over others, although the court has struggled to define what level of involvement between government and church crosses the constitutional line.”
Specifically, the ruling draws the line at prayer, not preaching, and provides an important redline and safeguard against fanaticism by noting that “the majority opinion didn’t give legislative prayer-givers a free light to say anything in such public settings, declaring out of bounds anything that advances or disparages a particular religion or coerces participants” (USA Today).
The Wall Street Journal highlights that:
- Justice Kennedy “noted that the Greece case was ‘fact-specific’ and said the court wasn’t endorsing invocations that ‘denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation or preach conversion.'” Rather, he wrote, “prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing, serves [a] legitimate function.”
- Justice Kagan noted that “month in and month out for over a decade, prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits…” “The practice thus divides the citizenry, creating one class that shares the board’s own evident religious beliefs and another (far smaller) class that does not.”
To read ‘Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Government Meetings’ on the USA Today’s web site, USA Today – Public Prayer Gets A Boost.
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