Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Supreme Court upholds legislative prayer at council meetings

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

The court ruled 5-4 that Christian prayers given before meetings of an upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion, citing history and tradition.

"Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's conservative majority.

He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient of how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum "need not become a religion-free zone," in the words of Justice Elena Kagan. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined her.

But there was sharp disagreement after that, and the majority ruling could encourage public bodies to give more leeway to religious expression in their ceremonial prayers and less deference to the objections of religious minorities.

The court's five conservatives said legislative prayers need not be stripped of references to a specific religion — the prayers at issue often invoked Jesus Christ — and said those given the opportunity to pray before meetings should be "unfettered" by what officials find appropriate.

The decision split the court along its usual ideological divide and, to a lesser extent, by religion. All members of the majority are Catholic, as is Sotomayor. The other dissenters are Jewish.

Gun law stands

The Supreme Court on Monday decided once again to stay out of the legal battle over whether some states are too restrictive in issuing permits to carry a handgun outside the home. The justices without comment turned down a request to review whether New Jersey's law requiring "justifiable need" to receive a handgun permit infringes on Second Amendment rights.

Washington Post

Supreme Court upholds legislative prayer at council meetings 05/05/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    Adeiny Hechavarria is quick to make his presence felt.
  2. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  3. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to tampabay.com/sports.
  4. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter

    News

    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]
  5. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December

    Blogs

    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.