As I wrote before, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the practice of the Town Board of Greece, NY opening its meetings with a prayer that was almost exclusively Christian. The court has put this case on its docket for the 2013-2014 session but a date for oral arguments has not yet been announced. Another federal judge in North Carolina also ordered a county government to stop having an opening prayer at its meetings.
In both those cases, the courts did not rule broadly on whether having any prayers at all was constitutional or constituted an endorsement of religion in general but more narrowly that the prayers, being almost exclusively from a Christian perspective, gave preference to that religion over other religions.
The new brief at one level is a defense of the long-standing practice in Congress of opening daily sessions with prayers, but on a broader level it provides a full defense of religious-oriented prayers at government meetings — provided they do not seek to recruit believers or criticize a given faith. But it contended that it does not matter, constitutionally, that those attending hear only, or mostly, the expressions of religious belief of one sect or denomination.
There was no obligation for the government to intervene in this case. The fact that it freely chose to do so continues the practice of the government seeking to curry favor with religious groups by giving them privileges. We saw that with the Bush administration’s creation of an Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and now the Obama administration has also created a new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives at the State Department and appointed a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington to head it.