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Supreme Court prayer ruling not likely to impact many Utah cities

In a 1993 ruling, state Supreme Court found prayer in city council meetings constitutional.

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Beacon or warning light? » Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also praised the court decision as a victory for religious liberty.

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"America’s heritage of religious freedom, including the freedom offered citizens to pray in a public setting, is one of the things that makes our country the beacon of freedom that it is," Hatch said in a statement.

The wide variety of approaches by Utah cities now probably won’t change as a result of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, predicted Sarah Davidson, vice president of the Utah Atheists of Utah.

"I hope not," she added.

If they do open with an invocation, "they don’t have to stop now but I certainly hope this doesn’t cause anyone to start using prayer" to open meetings, she said.

She said from a legal standpoint, it’s probably best that councils stay away from prayer in public meetings. "It’s when a prayer is invoking a higher power that issues really start to pile up," she said. "It becomes very easy to step into that coercive side."

"My only guideline is not only to be inclusive of religions but those who are not religious as well, so every person can believe in whom or what they want and also not believe."

Or, Davidson added, city councils could "just open with a joke."

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