Another lawsuit over opening prayers

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been busy fighting the practice of local governments beginning their sessions with prayers. Now they have taken on the town of Chico, CA where they are backing the local Coalition of Reason which is petitioning the city council meetings to stop beginning their meetings with a prayer, even though these prayers were not exclusively for one religion.

The invocations represent a multitude of faiths, including recent invocations from Sonrise Christian Center, Pacific Asian Missions and Congregation Beth Israel. A Hindu prayer is scheduled for Sept. 17.

But George Gold, head of the local Coalition of Reason, says that this still favors religion over non-religion.

“All that diversity is fine, but that’s not the point,” Gold said. “I haven’t gotten a note inviting me to do a secular invocation.”

Gold notes the Butte County Board of Supervisors has a moment of silence instead, which he said would be acceptable.

[Rev. Jim Peck of New Vision United Church of Christ], who before becoming a minister was a policy adviser for the governor of Colorado and advised on issues including church and state, does not agree.

“I do have a cultural concern that when we try to drive any reference to religion or faith out of all areas of public life that we are diminishing a really important part of our general culture,” Peck said. “Even spiritual people, non-religious people talk in terms of something beyond just themselves.”

It looks like the Greece v. Galloway case that will be heard by the US Supreme Court in the fall will be the one that determines the outcome of this type of case nationwide. November 6 is the day that has been set aside for oral argument and there are a large number of amicus curiae briefs filed in it, with the Obama administration filing one in favor of prayers although it was under no obligation to insert itself into the case.

This article looks at some of the general issues of the case while this article examines some of the more technical legal issues involved.

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