Fairleigh Dickinson University conducted a survey in relation to the of the upcoming ruling by the US Supreme Court on the Greece prayer case that I have written extensively about. It asked 833 people two questions.
The first question asked: There is a case about praying in town councils and other meetings with public officials. Have you heard about this case, or not?
62% hadn’t heard of it, while 37% had. When disaggregated, Republicans and those over 60 years were more likely to have heard of it while there was not much difference by race and gender.
The second question asked: Some say…[rotate]…public meetings shouldn’t have any prayers at all because prayers by definition suggest one belief or another. Others say prayer at public meetings is fine as long as the public officials are not favoring some beliefs over others. Which comes closer to your view?
73% said that the ‘neutral’ prayer should be allowed while 23% said that all prayers should be banned. The strongest supporters of the neutral prayers were Republicans with 88% but there was not much difference in the other categories.
While interesting the results are not surprising, since generic prayers likely appeal to people as being the middle ground between the controversial poles of no prayer and sectarian prayer. But I would not put too much stock in the results, especially the disaggregated ones. The total sample size is small and gives a margin of error of 3.3%. The sizes of the subgroups would be smaller and so the margin of error would be even larger.
But while most say they think that a neutral prayer is acceptable, the problem is that any prayer that is dictated by the government, even in general outline, becomes a de facto government prayer and thus highly dubious constitutionally. It is this Catch-22 that the Supreme Court will have to confront if they are to uphold the constitutionality of such prayers.