[BREAKING] Supreme Court permits opening prayer at town board meeting

The town board in Greece, N.Y., began its July 16 meeting in the usual way, with Supervisor John Auberger inviting a Christian minister to say a prayer. / Bloomberg Businessweek
The town board in Greece, N.Y., began its July 16 meeting in the usual way, with Supervisor John Auberger inviting a Christian minister to say a prayer. / Bloomberg Businessweek

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York may begin its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.”

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 5-to-4 decision, said “ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

Town officials said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, the federal appeals court in New York said, almost all of the chaplains were Christian.

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