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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday narrowly upheld the centuries-old tradition of offering prayers to open government meetings, even if the prayers are overwhelmingly Christian and citizens are encouraged to participate.
The 5-4 ruling, supported by the court's conservative justices and opposed by its liberals, was based in large part on the history of legislative prayer dating back to the Framers of the Constitution.
asks if genetic discoveries preclude an historical Adam.
While Bio Logos, the brainchild of NIH director Francis Collins, is seeking to promote theistic evolution among evangelicals, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently argued that true Christians should believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old.
The Obama administration came down forcefully on the town's side – most notably because both houses of Congress have opened with prayers since 1789.
But the prayers delivered there these days are far less sectarian than those heard in churches, temples and synagogues.
In the end, five justices said those facts didn't make what the Greece Town Board did unconstitutional, while four others said they did."The First Amendment is not a majority rule, and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech," Kennedy said.
Galloway therefore presented the justices with a new twist: mostly Christian clergy delivering frequently sectarian prayers before an audience that often included average citizens with business to conduct.Defending a practice used by the town of Greece, N.Y., the majority ruled that opening local government meetings with sectarian prayers doesn't violate the Establishment Clause as long as no religion is advanced or disparaged, and residents aren't coerced.Then came Marsh, in which the court gave a green light to legislative prayer that does not advance or disparage any faith.
Kennedy said Monday's decision follows in that spirit."The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce non-believers," he said.
Most state legislatures open their sessions with a prayer, nearly half of them with guidelines.