Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Prayer At Public Meetings - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Prayer At Public Meetings

Posted: Updated:

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

The court said in 5-4 decision Monday that the content of the prayers is not critical 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


  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor closed indefinitely

    Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor closed indefinitely

    Saturday, May 26 2018 2:33 PM EDT2018-05-26 18:33:58 GMT

    HONOLULU (AP) - Engineers say damage to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was worse than expected and it will remain closed indefinitely.    Hawaii News Now reports boat transportation to the attraction was suspended May 6 after one of the vessel operators noticed a crack on the outside of the memorial. 

    >>

    HONOLULU (AP) - Engineers say damage to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was worse than expected and it will remain closed indefinitely.    Hawaii News Now reports boat transportation to the attraction was suspended May 6 after one of the vessel operators noticed a crack on the outside of the memorial. 

    >>
  • Mysterious wolf-like creature shot in Montana

    Mysterious wolf-like creature shot in Montana

    Thursday, May 24 2018 7:58 PM EDT2018-05-24 23:58:21 GMT
    Image Courtesy KXLO via KFBBImage Courtesy KXLO via KFBB
    Image Courtesy KXLO via KFBBImage Courtesy KXLO via KFBB

    DENTON, Mont. - A large wolf-like animal was shot and killed May 16 by a rancher near Denton, Montana. It now has wildlife officials and the public wondering what it was, according to KFBB. The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) said in a statement the rancher shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a 

    >>

    DENTON, Mont. - A large wolf-like animal was shot and killed May 16 by a rancher near Denton, Montana. It now has wildlife officials and the public wondering what it was, according to KFBB. The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) said in a statement the rancher shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a 

    >>
  • FIRST ON KHQ: Former Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal facing felony theft charges for welfare fraud

    FIRST ON KHQ: Former Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal facing felony theft charges for welfare fraud

    Friday, May 25 2018 2:09 AM EDT2018-05-25 06:09:50 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Former Spokane Chapter NAACP President Rachel Dolezal is now facing legal trouble that could land her behind bars. KHQ has confirmed that Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, is accused of 1st Degree Theft by Welfare Fraud, Perjury in the 2nd Degree, and False Verification for Public Assistance.

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Former Spokane Chapter NAACP President Rachel Dolezal is now facing legal trouble that could land her behind bars. KHQ has confirmed that Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, is accused of 1st Degree Theft by Welfare Fraud, Perjury in the 2nd Degree, and False Verification for Public Assistance. Her potential punishment under RCW 74.08.331 could include up to 15 years in prison.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Man says he killed married couple in self-defense

    Man says he killed married couple in self-defense

    Saturday, May 26 2018 7:44 PM EDT2018-05-26 23:44:15 GMT

    EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - A man on trial for killing a married Washington couple says he committed the crime but denied that their deaths were cold-blooded executions, as prosecutors argue.    The Everett Herald reports John Reed told a jury Friday that he killed his Oso neighbors, Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, in 2016 in self-defense during a dispute.  

    >>

    EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - A man on trial for killing a married Washington couple says he committed the crime but denied that their deaths were cold-blooded executions, as prosecutors argue.    The Everett Herald reports John Reed told a jury Friday that he killed his Oso neighbors, Monique Patenaude and Patrick Shunn, in 2016 in self-defense during a dispute.  

    >>
  • City aims to block release of dangerous psychiatric patients

    City aims to block release of dangerous psychiatric patients

    Saturday, May 26 2018 7:38 PM EDT2018-05-26 23:38:40 GMT
    Federal regulators have agreed to negotiate an agreement with the Washington state agency that oversees the troubled Western State Hospital to avoid the loss of federal funds.Federal regulators have agreed to negotiate an agreement with the Washington state agency that oversees the troubled Western State Hospital to avoid the loss of federal funds.

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) - The city that houses Western State Hospital, Washington's main psychiatric facility, is fighting to keep patients from being released into its boundaries.    The News Tribune reports Lakewood on Monday approved a moratorium on city business licenses for new adult family homes and authorized a lawsuit against the state to end what it calls the unsafe release of people with histories of violence or sexual offenses into its city.

    >>

    LAKEWOOD, Wash. (AP) - The city that houses Western State Hospital, Washington's main psychiatric facility, is fighting to keep patients from being released into its boundaries.    The News Tribune reports Lakewood on Monday approved a moratorium on city business licenses for new adult family homes and authorized a lawsuit against the state to end what it calls the unsafe release of people with histories of violence or sexual offenses into its city.

    >>
  • Missing fisherman found by divers in submerged vessel

    Missing fisherman found by divers in submerged vessel

    Saturday, May 26 2018 7:30 PM EDT2018-05-26 23:30:34 GMT

    SEATTLE (AP) - The body of a missing fisherman was found by divers inside the sunken vessel, the Kelli J.    The Coast Guard said Saturday that the body was found before the vessel was refloated by contractors in Willapay Bay on Friday.    The Pacific County Sheriff's Office took the fisherman's body to a local funeral home on Friday night.

    >>

    SEATTLE (AP) - The body of a missing fisherman was found by divers inside the sunken vessel, the Kelli J.    The Coast Guard said Saturday that the body was found before the vessel was refloated by contractors in Willapay Bay on Friday.    The Pacific County Sheriff's Office took the fisherman's body to a local funeral home on Friday night.

    >>