Obama Administration Says Prayers Before Town Council Meetings Are Okay

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photo of people praying before a meeting
Praying before a meeting

Town of Greece v. Galloway is a US Supreme Court case to heard in the fall that might set the boundaries for prayers before town council meetings so they aren’t a violation of the separation of church and state. One interesting thing to come out of the pre-hearing filings is that the Obama administration is supporting the prayers. I really never knew why it was so important for an elected body to pray before working since prayers don’t make elected officials do a better job nor do the prayers improve living in a certain town or county. As one church state group put it, a town council meeting ‘isn’t a church service and it shouldn’t seem like one.’

We found out this week that President Obama’s administration weighed in on the case in an amicus brief and took the side of the town council.

The administration’s filing was “a surprisingly conservative brief, and it came as a pleasant surprise,” said Ken Klukowski, a lawyer for the Family Research Council, who filed the brief for the House members. “It’s gratifying that even the Obama administration recognizes that courts are not qualified to censor prayers.”

Administration lawyers may hope that by siding with the town, they can head off a more sweeping ruling. The court’s conservatives have long wanted to scrap the endorsement standard. They would prefer a rule that schools and local governments may invoke religion and Christianity so long as no unwilling person is forced to join in.

Lawyers refer to this as the “coercion” standard, and Klukowski’s brief urges the court to adopt it in the New York case.

Obama administration backs prayer at local government meetings

You know you are wrong when the hate group, Family Research Council, agrees with you.

As the Friendly Atheist noted:

In short, the administration is saying that Christian prayers, as long as they’re not *intended* to proselytize, are totally fine at government meetings… even if the only kind of prayers we ever hear are Christian prayers.

It really makes no sense. It shows a tremendous lack of respect for religious freedom in this country. It’s dismissive of everyone who’s not a Christian for the sake of keeping with tradition.

Obama Administration Backs Legislative Prayer in Amicus Brief

Ahhh, the old appeal to tradition fallacy. Prayers are okay because it is tradition? I think a local government shouldn’t assume, as they all do, that all their constituents are Christian or even religious. That is why I feel such pre-meeting prayers step over the wall between church and state.

As Rev. Barry Lyn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said:

A town council meeting is not like a church service, and it shouldn’t be treated like it is.

Just like pledging to the flag doesn’t make you a better citizen, praying before any legislative session doesn’t help elected officials do a better job nor does it improve the living conditions in the town or county. It is an arrogant waste of time.


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