Supreme Court Upholds Prayer in Government Meetings

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a 5-4 ruling Monday, the United States Supreme Court ruled opening government meetings with a prayer is constitutional.

The decision in the case, The Town of Greece v. Galloway, overturned the ruling from a New York district court. The case debated the constitutionality of the town of Greece, New York opening its board meetings with a prayer.

The court's opinion read, "The town of Greece does not violate the First Amend­ment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition and does not coerce participation by non-adherents."

The court's dissent argued that "the Town of Greece's prayer practices violate that norm of religious equality-the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian."

During hearings on the case, several Missouri politicians chimed in on the debate. Missouri Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, along with 84 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives, filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in support of prayer in meetings. An amicus curiae brief can be filed by any person or group of people to give Supreme Court justices their opinion on the matter.

In the brief, the representatives wrote, "These elected Representatives regard legislative prayer as important for policymaking bodies, both to solemnize official occasions and to seek God's blessing and guidance in making consequential decisions."

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt also filed an amicus curiae brief in favor of prayer in meetings with 33 other U.S. Senators from both parties.

The senator's brief argued that during prayer, senators "reflect on their duty to represent every constituent, mindful of the nation's core values and their need for divine assistance in carrying out their responsibilities."

Many mid-Missouri governments open meetings with a prayer, including the Jefferson City Council, the Ashland Board of Aldermen and the Missouri State Legislature.