This week's decision by the Supreme Court involved prayer preceding public meetings is interesting and will be embraced by many.
In the past, courts have ruled that simply using the premises of a government building was sufficient to cause a prohibition on prayer. Monday, the court said prayer could be held, provided it occurred prior to the actual start of a government meeting. Thus, the building was separated from the actual government function or meeting (during which prayer would still be banned).
The court also indicated that such prayers would be appropriate only if all religions that made application to offer prayers were allowed to do so (at least on a rotating basis). A city in Texas, several years ago, had attempted that same standard, opening its meetings with a prayer and letting any who signed up to offer a prayer. They canceled the plan when the first to sign up were Wiccans, one of the larger "churches" of the growing pagan religious movement in this country.
The court, in Monday's ruling, was clear that if one religious group is allowed, then all religions must have their chance (although there was some indication they'd have to actually be members of the community represented by that government). That would include Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, the scores of pagan churches from the most common Wiccans to the Odinists, the Olympians and even the Satanists, let alone the hundreds of different Christian religions that exist in this country (at least 25 different ones in Mountain Home, alone). Not sure how they'd deal with athiests (perhaps just adopt a moment of silence as their "prayer"?).
Furthermore, the court did not extend this right to schools, noting that people are forced to attend schools, but at a government meeting, those offended can simply step outside until the prayer ends and the meeting begins, the court said.
And the prayer can't be overly evangelical, encourage one political position or another, threaten damnation if a vote doesn't go a specific way, or encourage people to join that religion. Essentially, it should be pretty bland.
Not everyone is going to be happy with this ruling, but it seems fair and reasonable.
-- Kelly Everitt