What do I think of the latest ruling from the majority on the right on the United States Supreme Court concerning prayer at public meetings?
I think that whenever possible the courts should stay out of the subject.
If someone is actually forced to follow a certain religion or prevented from following one, then there is a case of First Amendment violation. But prayers before local government meetings, which this case involved, are as common as the celebration of Christmas by non Christians.
If I read the ruling correctly in Towne of Greece v. Galloway even the majority on the right thinks that there would be a problem if citizens were coerced by government into prayer before pubic meetings, commonly called invocations, but as long as they are voluntary and somewhat generic, it’s okay and causes no harm.
Well as a matter of practicality I tend to agree with that.
My father was not a church goer and not a follower of the faith (although he admitted to me once that we really don’t know what happens after death and it’s only natural that we have concerns whether we are doing the right thing — and that was my interpretation of what he said). And People tying to push religion on him irritated him. On the other hand, he would have never, as far as I know, insulted someone over their religion or being religious. He was a newspaper man. And I recall attending a city council meeting with him. As the invocation began, he looked over at me and whispered: “just look at the floor”. When in Rome, do as the Romans.
It would seem to me that since the First Amendment prohibits government from establishing a religion, local governments (and any governmental body) would simply do well to just skip any religious practice. I mean if the members of the body feel a need for prayer, who’s stopping them from individually and privately doing it themselves? And why can’t they just go to church on Sunday or whenever their congregation meets?
But on the other hand, how does looking at the floor hurt anyone?
In reading the background I saw that those bringing the original suit against the town government claimed that almost all the prayers or invocations were done by Christian pastors (not all but almost all). What I did not see was any evidence that non-Christians were barred, although they were apparently not sought after our encouraged, at least for the most part.
I did not write an analysis of or brief the case as lawyers say. I did read through the majority opinion and it seemed kind of right-wing politically inspired (what else is new? I think the court has always been political, sometimes leaning right and sometimes left (the Warren Court). Yeah, I think they should have just let this one go. The high court does not hear all cases.
Oh, and the majority opinion remarked something about the reason that most of the prayers were Christian in nature in the town in question was because well it was a community composed mainly of Christians. Makes sense. But we all know the hue and cry that would take place if some Muslims were elected to the city council and put out their prayer rugs before each meeting. But I guess if that were to take place in a predominantly Muslim community that would be considered okay, even if Christians or Jews or other faiths or members without faiths had business before the body.