U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES FOR PRAYER AT COUNCIL MEETINGS

U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES FOR PRAYER AT COUNCIL MEETINGS

Local residents who had disputed use of sectarian prayers at both City of Twentynine Palms and Town of Yucca Valley Council meetings have been waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a similar case in New York State; the decision came down on Monday. The Supreme Court gave limited approval Monday to public prayers at a New York town’s board meetings, citing the country’s history of religious acknowledgment in the legislature.  The vote on the decision was 5-4, split along long-established conservative/liberal lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy providing the swing vote. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the case in the town of Greece, New York, and did not offer either a broad expansion of legislative prayer, nor explicit guidelines as to how other jurisdictions might act. Fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia went further, suggesting that even any “subtle pressure” that local citizens might feel would not be enough to ban such prayers. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said, “When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.”

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