State of the Debate

Punditsphere splits on prayer at city councils ...

First Published      Last Updated May 06 2014 05:30 pm

Perhaps earning himself some credit on the American religious right against the day he rules in favor of same-sex marriage rights, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote on, and the author of, Monday's ruling that allows city councils across the nation to open their meetings with a prayer. As long as it isn't overly evangelical or dismissive of other religions.

Allows it. Not mandates it.

Editorial reactions, of course, are about as split as the 5-4 court ruling:

No matter what court says, government meetings should leave out the religion — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

" ... The 5-4 decision in the case of the Town of Greece v. Galloway is unlikely to move any local body that does not already overlay its secular duties with a religious component to launch such an unwise practice.

"The ruling allows those cities whose leaders know better — Salt Lake City among them — to continue to avoid even the suggestion that a governmental jurisdiction favors one faith over another, or favors belief over non-belief. ..."

Thankfully, the Supreme Court upholds prayers at public meetings — Deseret News Editorial

"In once again legitimizing the traditional role an invocation can have in lending "gravity" to public meetings, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday articulated some ideas that ought to be self-evident in a nation that values free speech and unfettered religious worship. ..."

Court favors freedom to pray over freedom from religion — Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial

"It's official: Americans enjoy freedom of religion. They do not have freedom from religion. We can thank the Supreme Court's conservative majority and President Barack Obama, who stood together on Monday's landmark ruing in Town of Greece v. Galloway.

Supreme Court blesses town prayer — Steve Chapman | The Chicago Tribune

" ... It's nice to have the government publicly endorse your faith. But if it can champion Christianity today, why not Islam tomorrow?

"If Christians attending the local city council meeting had to sit through a prayer to Allah or Vishnu, they would most likely feel excluded and offended. But somehow they think non-Christians should have to put up with the equivalent without complaint or recourse. ..."

A defeat for religious neutrality — New York Times Editorial

"The American values of pluralism and inclusion are central to the First Amendment, which forbids government from favoring or aligning itself with any particular religion or believers over nonbelievers.

"In a lamentable ruling Monday, the Supreme Court's conservative majority brushed past those core values to allow the town of Greece, in upstate New York, to begin its town hall meetings with a sectarian prayer nearly always from a Christian 'chaplain of the month' ..."

Majority Rules — Dahlia Lithwick | Slate

Americans now get to decide which religions we want to protect. Guess which one will always win?

Court gives us swap meets for theocracy — Steve Benson | The Arizona Republic [video]