“If The First Amendment Means Anything…”

Can your town pray to Jesus?
The courts will decide;
A town in New York
Has a case being tried

At town council meetings
(And maybe at schools)
They argue “the Christian
Majority rules”

The supremes are the ones
Who interpret the laws–
So PLEASE… don’t neglect
The establishment clause!

I’ll stop here–I could go on, but the Los Angeles Times already said everything I want to. First, the case:

In what could be its most significant church-state case in decades, the Supreme Court will decide whether official prayers at government meetings that overwhelmingly favor one religion violate the 1st Amendment. Although the case involves a town in New York, not the federal government, the Obama administration has filed a “friend of the court” brief that is distinctly unfriendly to the separation of church and state.

Next, the pithy statement:

If the 1st Amendment’s ban on the “establishment of religion” by government means anything, it means that a Jewish, Muslim or atheist shouldn’t have to endure routine official prayers “in the name of Jesus” as the price of participating in local government.

And of course, the summation:

As a policy matter, we’d be happy if governments held no prayers at all at their official proceedings. After all, not every citizen attending such meetings will be a believer in any religion’s god. But if a government insists on sponsoring prayers, it should either keep them nonsectarian or make sure that it offers equal time to a range of voices, so as not to endorse one religious tradition over another. That’s what the 2nd Circuit required, and the Supreme Court should affirm its holding.

There is more there, and I agree with it all, but you need to read it there.


  1. says

    “Nonsectarian” is still offensive to everyone who does not worship a monotheistic, male-identified deity. Why should Wiccans, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and atheists still be required to endure routine official prayers as the price of participating in local government?

  2. justsomeguy says


    Maybe “nonspecific” would be more appropriate? Address the prayer to “any and all gods, deities, or divine beings; to any and all supernatural beings; and to any and all incarnations of abstract concepts.” That’s inclusive enough that *everybody* ought to approve. Right? Right?

  3. Cuttlefish says

    Well, anybody but some of those pesky atheists, and those religions that are opposed to using prayer in this manner. I, for one, wouldn’t like it. It would be better than what is happening currently, but why the hell have an invocation at all?

  4. coragyps says

    Does anyone else remember “The Exorcism of the Demons at the Pentagon” from 1968 or so? When The Fugs, Alan Ginsburg, and other heroes of my youth attempted to levitate The Pentagon 300 feet into the air, make it vibrate and turn orange, and thus expel the demons infesting it?
    ” In the name of Set, the ancient serpent”
    — Out! Demons, out!
    In the name of Allah
    — Out! Demons, out”
    In the name of Coyote
    –Out! demons, out!
    In the name of Quetzalcoatl
    –Out! Demons, out!

    ……. etc.

    That would be a good starting point for City Council meetings, I think.

  5. josebuendia says

    As a Buddhist, I can say that there should either be no prayers (preferable) or a rotation that give equal time to each religion or philosophy. The trouble with the second approach is that you can’t possibly be all inclusive. Even among the Buddhists, we have a hundred different sects and lineages.

    What doesn’t work at all is to have some concept of a non-sectarian “prayer”. This is simply pabulum and dilutes and trivializes religions and philosophies that deserve to be taken in context and on their own terms.

  6. DonDueed says

    Why not an official moment of silence? This would allow any believer to say a silent prayer if they chose, and would have the added benefit of quieting the crowd so that official business could start.

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    Whatever happens the prayers will continue. If the Councillors can’t deliver the prayer, they’ll allow a citizen to do it from the public gallery. Eight out of ten Americans will shout “Hallelujah, praise the lord,” and the Attorney General will decide that it might better to just look the other way.

  8. zackoz says

    Any bets on how the Supreme Court will decide this?

    They’re not exactly strong on the establishment clause.

  9. rikitiki says

    Since far too many governmental entities do the ‘prayer thing’ before meetings (and would continue to do so), I’d push for a prayer to a different deity every meeting – y’know, to give equal time and all.
    That means that with daily meetings, the first could have a prayer to Jesus and then, with, what?, about 3800 gods in humanity’s history, the NEXT prayer to Jesus would take place a little over 10 years later.
    That’d be fair, right?

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