Thank God: Public prayer carries the day in narrow Supreme Court case

Score one for the good guys.

Bowing to both the Constitution and reality, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a New York town’s tradition of conducting a public prayer before board meetings has been part of the fabric of the country since the Founders.

prayermeet0505The 5-4 decision in Greece v. Galloway  broke along the usual lines, with Justices Anthony Kennedy writing for a majority that included Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The dissenters were Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Bryer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor.

“The Congress that drafted the First Amendment would have been accustomed to invocations containing explicitly religious themes of the sort [the prayers’ challengers] find objectionable,” Kennedy wrote.

The minority pretended not to get it.

“The prayers betray no understanding that the American community is today, as it long has been, a rich mosaic of religious faiths,” Kagan wrote with standard liberal condescension.

Her problem was that the content of the prayers in Greece, N.Y., outside Rochester in the northern part of the state, were overwhelmingly Christian in nature. But that’s only because Greece itself is overwhelmingly Christian, as the first court to hear the case ruled.

Since the case started in 2007, when an atheist and a Jew sued the town over its Christian prayers, the town board has scoured the area for religious diversity, according to numerous media accounts. As USA Today puts it, “town officials canvassed widely for volunteer prayer-givers and added a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and a member of the Baha’i faith to the mix.”

Let’s face it, that’s not a bad showing for upstate New York. And any town board that can bring itself to sit through a Wiccan prayer just for the sake of proving its diversity ought to get credit for making a good faith effort.

Fortunately, the country still has five justices on the Supreme Court who believe in the Constitution enough to know this is a country where religious beliefs flourish.

And there are only so many Wiccan priestesses to go around.

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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