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>>

  • Coverage criticism leads to new conversation about homelessness in Spokane

    Coverage criticism leads to new conversation about homelessness in Spokane

    Thursday, July 20 2017 10:16 PM EDT2017-07-21 02:16:44 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - This story originated as a post to KHQ, from a viewer, upset about this homeless camp below Kendall Yards. After the initial report on Facebook, I got a lot of comments -  many people were offended about how i described the camp. One person who was very vocal, was Ellie. I asked if she would meet with me - and she said yes. As upset as she is with our coverage - she welcomed the chance to make others understand that this is a conversation 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - This story originated as a post to KHQ, from a viewer, upset about this homeless camp below Kendall Yards. After the initial report on Facebook, I got a lot of comments -  many people were offended about how i described the camp. One person who was very vocal, was Ellie. I asked if she would meet with me - and she said yes. As upset as she is with our coverage - she welcomed the chance to make others understand that this is a conversation 

    >>
  • Washington's new DUI-E law takes effect Sunday

    Washington's new DUI-E law takes effect Sunday

    Tuesday, July 18 2017 10:02 PM EDT2017-07-19 02:02:25 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - "He was my youngest, he was my baby bear," Tina Myer said about her son that was killed by a distracted driver. It was a distracted driver that killed Tina Myer's son Cody, hitting the 23-year-old as he was working as a flagger at a construction site in December 2015. He suffered severe injuries, and died several months later. Now Myer is joining Governor Inslee, praising a new DUI-E law.

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - "He was my youngest, he was my baby bear," Tina Myer said about her son that was killed by a distracted driver. It was a distracted driver that killed Tina Myer's son Cody, hitting the 23-year-old as he was working as a flagger at a construction site in December 2015. He suffered severe injuries, and died several months later. Now Myer is joining Governor Inslee, praising a new DUI-E law.

    >>
  • N. Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force asks for public's help finding wanted fugitive

    N. Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force asks for public's help finding wanted fugitive

    Friday, July 21 2017 12:44 AM EDT2017-07-21 04:44:54 GMT

    KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho - The North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force (NIVCTF) is seeking information leading to the arrest of 27-year-old Mallory Ann Helling. Helling is being sought based on a Kootenai County felony warrant for possession of meth with the intent to deliver. Helling is 5’3 tall, 135 lbs with brown eyes and brown hair. She was last known to be living in Post Falls, ID. Anyone with information regarding Helling should call the NIVCTF at 208-665-4455. 

    >>

    KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho - The North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force (NIVCTF) is seeking information leading to the arrest of 27-year-old Mallory Ann Helling. Helling is being sought based on a Kootenai County felony warrant for possession of meth with the intent to deliver. Helling is 5’3 tall, 135 lbs with brown eyes and brown hair. She was last known to be living in Post Falls, ID. Anyone with information regarding Helling should call the NIVCTF at 208-665-4455. 

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

  • Spicer resigns as White House press secretary

    Friday, July 21 2017 12:10 PM EDT2017-07-21 16:10:03 GMT

    WASHINGTON (AP) - White House press secretary Sean Spicer is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. One of those people said Spicer is quitting because of objections over the appointment of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci.

    >>

    WASHINGTON (AP) - White House press secretary Sean Spicer is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision. One of those people said Spicer is quitting because of objections over the appointment of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci.

    >>
  • U.S. Forest Service warns of aggressive bear on Canfield Mountain

    U.S. Forest Service warns of aggressive bear on Canfield Mountain

    Friday, July 21 2017 9:10 AM EDT2017-07-21 13:10:12 GMT

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - If you're planning on doing some outdoor activities on Canfield Mountain this weekend, listen up! The U.S. Forest Service wants the public to avoid the upper parking area and trail system on the mountain for the time being. An aggressive sow bear with a cub (possibly more than one cub) has been reported on the Cave Trail.

    >>

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - If you're planning on doing some outdoor activities on Canfield Mountain this weekend, listen up! The U.S. Forest Service wants the public to avoid the upper parking area and trail system on the mountain for the time being. An aggressive sow bear with a cub (possibly more than one cub) has been reported on the Cave Trail.

    >>
  • Passing driver saves woman, six kids in car crash on Highway 2

    Passing driver saves woman, six kids in car crash on Highway 2

    Friday, July 21 2017 9:03 AM EDT2017-07-21 13:03:36 GMT

    LINCOLN COUNTY, Wash. - Lincoln County Sheriff's Office is crediting a total stranger from preventing a very possible tragedy. Deputies say a woman was driving a van with 6 young children when she fell asleep on Highway 2 near Davenport, driving off the road and into a pond. As most of the van went under, a passing driver pulled over, waded into the deep water, and helped get them to safety. First responders rushed to the scene.  No one was injured.  

    >>

    LINCOLN COUNTY, Wash. - Lincoln County Sheriff's Office is crediting a total stranger from preventing a very possible tragedy. Deputies say a woman was driving a van with 6 young children when she fell asleep on Highway 2 near Davenport, driving off the road and into a pond. As most of the van went under, a passing driver pulled over, waded into the deep water, and helped get them to safety. First responders rushed to the scene.  No one was injured.  

    >>