Legislative prayer, religious freedom should be upheld by Supreme Court

The push in today’s society to delete Christianity, prayer and even God is a constant battle to undermine the very foundation on which the United States was built.

The next few weeks will be no different as the Supreme Court hears testimonies and begins deliberating whether prayer at government meetings is lawful.

The case started in 2009 in Greece, N.Y., when two women (one an atheist and the other Jewish) sued to stop the pre-meeting prayers at town board meetings, even though the prayers had been an official part of the meetings for 11 years.

Susan Galloway, who is Jewish, claimed the prayers alienated her from the government because they were predominately Christian in nature. Both Galloway and Linda Stephens argue that they’re a captive audience at meetings and should not have to listen to sectarian prayers. Douglas Laycock, who’s representing the women, is arguing that the prayers should be banned because they “advance Christianity and they proselytize Christianity,” Laycock said. If the town wants to keep prayers, Laycock is contending the prayers should be nonsectarian and follow a set of written guidelines.

The Supreme Court is trying the case because a federal appeals court in Rochester, N.Y., ruled the prayers were unconstitutional because nearly every prayer in the 11-year span has been Christian.

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled legislative prayer was acceptable and upheld the First Amendment. The justices wrote that the Establishment Clause was intended to protect against religious coercion by the government, not to protect against religion.

It is the opinion of The Collegian editorial staff that the Supreme Court should once again hold up the First Amendment and continue to allow legislative prayer in meetings. While the arguments for prayer have been frequently voiced, they bear repeating. America was founded upon prayer; even the very first opening sessions of Congress were commenced with prayer. Banning or changing prayer will never change our country’s history. The women complaining about Greece’s town’s prayers are missing the point of America’s intentional Christian foundation. The women are arguing they feel alienated by the prayers, but they are not being forced to convert to Christianity or to listen to them. (Separate rooms are offered, or they could step outside.)

The lower appeals court ruled unconstitutionally when they limited prayer, and the Supreme Court should protect religious freedom by supporting Greece in its stance on prayer as a part of the legislative meetings. Liberals, like Stephens and Galloway, often argue for tolerance in religious freedom, but are not willing to extend that tolerance toward Christianity.