Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Praying in Civic Spaces

I'm baffled by this week's Supreme Court decision regarding legislative session prayers. In the Town of Greece case, the Court ruled that legislative session prayers, even explicitly Christian prayers, are not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Justice Kagan's dissent written on behalf of the four dissenting justices makes much more sense to me. I daresay a lot more people would find her dissent sensible had the sectarian prayers in question Muslim or Hindu prayers.

Mark Movsesian of St. John's University School of Law had a good opinion piece about the Supreme Court decision on the First Thoughts Blog. I give you Movsesian's closing paragraph as an incentive for you to read the entire article.
In my law and religion seminar, I tell students that most of our fights about the Establishment Clause boil down to this: What can a religious minority reasonably require of the majority? Or, put differently, how far must the majority go to accommodate the sensibilities of the minority? Here, the Court seems to be saying, if a town is overwhelmingly Christian, non-Christians cannot legitimately expect that legislative prayers will be anything but overwhelmingly Christian. To insist on something else would be unreasonable. What about those few citizens who do object to the repeated recitation of Christian prayer at town meetings, who feel genuinely offended? What word does the Court have for them? Well, there are other towns.
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