Alicia Sotherland

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Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion rightly dismissed the idea that ministers be advised to keep their prayers generic or nonsectarian. "Once it invites prayer into the public sphere," he wrote, "government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian."

The question in the Greece case was whether government bodies can invite members of the clergy to lead prayers at public meetings. The biggest hurdle was a 1983 decision in which the court upheld public prayer before daily sessions of the Nebraska Legislature. Such legislative prayers stretch back Skechers Equalizer Navy

or a building permit should not be subjected to a sermon delivered by a representative of a religion they do not accept. Instead, the court simply added more confusion.

The court could easily have done it, however, and saved itself a lot of trouble in the process, by simply saying a town council is not the same thing as Congress or a state legislature.

Jews, Muslims, Wiccans or atheists.

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Whereas in legislative chambers the minister prays to the assembled lawmakers, ministers in Vans Beige Old Skool the town of Greece face the audience, and the record shows they often invite the public to join in prayer. Legislators can come and go generally unnoticed during prayers, or not show up at all, but a member of the public seated at the beginning of a town council meeting would create a spectacle by getting up and walking out during the prayer.

WHAT THE MAJORITY SAID: Five of the nine justices cited the long history of legislative prayers in upholding the practice and said nothing in the town's practice crossed the line into government establishment of religion.

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to the first session of Congress, and the court upheld that decision because there is no practical way to explain away all that history.

The court in this case missed an opportunity to be clear that people who attend a public meeting of their town council to discuss a zoning issue, the need for a stoplight Skechers Performance Shoes

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WHAT DISSENTERS SAID: Three justices said the town should have offered more religious diversity rather than inviting almost exclusively Christian ministers. Two justices argued that this question should be left entirely to the states without the court's interference.

Supreme Court has struggled to figure out where to draw the line between church and state. Allowing religion to hew too closely to the state will violate the part of the First Amendment that prohibits the establishment of an official national religion. The alternative opens the court to accusations that it is pushing religion out of the public square. Indeed, it is hard to see from the reasoning of these decisions what prevents state sponsored religious exercises at any or all government functions.

The solution for public bodies is to steer clear of officially sanctioned public prayers altogether. That is not required by the Constitution under the Supreme Court's fuzzy interpretations, but that surely is the intent of the First Amendment.

You can get in on the debate

Yet, Kennedy flatly contradicted himself in the next paragraph by saying prayers could raise red flags if they "denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion."

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Justice Elena Kagan's otherwise brilliant dissent stopped short of concluding there is no constitutional way to save Greece's prayers. Instead, she suggested town councils could get around the First Amendment challenges by including leaders of faiths other than Christianity. But that does not solve the problem of offending Christians who might be discomforted by prayers led by Mens Mbt Shoes Ebay Uk

´╗┐Supreme Court's prayer ruling has little clarity

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