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May 5th, 2014
04:23 PM ET

After Supreme Court ruling, do religious minorities have a prayer?

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - If you don't like it, leave the room.

That's Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's advice for atheists and others who object to sectarian prayers before government meetings.

In a 5-4 decision written by Kennedy, the Supreme Court allowed Greece, New York, to continue hosting prayers before its monthly town board meetings - even though an atheist and a Jewish citizen complained that the benedictions are almost always explicitly Christian.

Many members of the country's majority faith - that is, Christians - hailed the ruling.

Many members of minority faiths, as well as atheists, responded with palpable anger, saying the Supreme Court has set them apart as second-class citizens.

Groups from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to the Hindu American Foundation decried Monday's decision.

"The court’s decision to bless ‘majority-rules’ prayer is out of step with the changing face of America, which is more secular and less dogmatic,” said Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which litigated the case.

At least one justice, Elena Kagan, seemed to agree. And while Kennedy's decision reads like a lesson in American history, Kagan's dissent offers a picture of the country's increasingly pluralistic present.

American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution, Kennedy writes.

The inaugural and "emphatically Christian" prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians.

The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history, Kennedy writes.

So, the justice suggests, as long prayers at public meetings don't fall into a pattern of proselytizing, denigrating nonbelievers or threatening damnation, what's the problem?

According to a recent poll, the vast majority of Americans share Kennedy's view.

Less than 23% of Americans told pollsters at Fairleigh Dickinson University that they dislike prayers at public government meetings.

“This has always been a praying nation, despite its very secular Constitution,” said Peter J. Woolley, professor of comparative politics at Fairleigh Dickinson in Hackensack, New Jersey.

“People generally see generic prayer as harmless, if not uplifting, not as something that is oppressive.”

But what about people who like their local government meetings to be religion-free?

"Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy," Kennedy writes.

Kagan, writing for the dissenting minority, sharply disagreed.

She suggested that the five justices who formed the majority - all of whom are Catholic - don't understand what it's like to belong to a minority faith in America.

The Supreme Court's Catholic majority seems to think that, because many prayers before government meetings take on a ceremonial aspect, the actual content of the prayers doesn't matter, Kagan continues.

In essence, she said, the majority is making light of religious differences while conferring a special role on Christianity.

"Contrary to the majority's apparent view, such sectarian prayers are not 'part of our expressive idiom' or 'part of our heritage and tradition,' assuming that 'our' refers to all Americans. They express beliefs that are fundamental to some, foreign to others - and because of that they carry the ever-present potential to divide and exclude."

To illustrate her point, Kagan, who is Jewish, raises a hypothetical scenario.

Let's say there's a Muslim resident of Greece, New York, who appears before the town board to share her policy views or request a permit.

Just before the Muslim woman makes her argument, a minister "deputized by the town" asks the room to pray in the name of "God's only son Jesus Christ."

With less than a dozen people the room, every action is noticed.

So, the Muslim woman has two choices, Kagan argues: 1) Go along with the majority and pray, despite her religious objections, or 2) Risk causing some kind of disturbance or public disagreement with the very people she is trying to persuade.

"And thus she stands at a remove, based solely on religion, from her fellow citizens and her elected representatives," Kagan writes.

Kagan did not suggest that the Supreme Court's majority (Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) voted to uphold sectarian prayer because they are members of the country's largest church, Roman Catholicism.

But Ronald Lindsay of the Center for Inquiry, a Humanist group, called it "striking and sad" that "five of the six Christian justices on the Supreme Court formed the majority." (Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is Catholic, voted with Kagan.)

"With a Supreme Court that appears hostile to the rights of religious minorities, those of us who believe in a secular government must redouble our legal and advocacy efforts,” Lindsay said.

Of course, there's a great gap between being Catholic and using the gavel to promote Christianity.

But a new study conducted by scholars at the University of Southern California offers intriguing insights into how the justices have voted on First Amendment issues.

The upshot: The conservative justices tend to side with conservative causes; the liberals with liberal ones.

"Supreme Court Justices are opportunistic supporters of the First Amendment," write the scholars.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Courts • Discrimination • Interfaith issues • Prejudice • Religious liberty

soundoff (2,070 Responses)
  1. halfdime1

    "Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy," Kennedy writes."

    It should say...

    Should believers choose to exit the room and pray, their absence will not stand out as disrepectful or even noteworthy, unless there is work to be done."

    May 6, 2014 at 4:05 am |
    • seedenbetter

      "But we will know who you are...you baby Jesus hating, devil worshiping heathens.."

      May 6, 2014 at 8:59 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        Half....I like them knowing who I am. An intelligent human being that hasn't had an ecclesiastical revelation in my bathroom mirror.

        May 6, 2014 at 9:03 am |
        • G to the T

          I'd rather they don't if they have the option of whether or not my pieces of business will be considered without bias.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
    • fintronics

      Kennedy = eroding the separation of church and state. DISGUSTING!

      May 6, 2014 at 9:03 am |
  2. markmckeeexp

    So we used to refer to the members of SCOTUS as "justices." What do we call them now Ayatollahs???

    May 6, 2014 at 3:57 am |
  3. bofferbings

    View the ultimate hypocrisy of the militant Atheist...
    He will deride anyone who believes in a higher power as an idi.ot ...
    Yet bemoan the supposed intolerance of the believer....whether Christiann, Hindu, Muslim or Jew.

    May 6, 2014 at 2:56 am |
    • ssq41

      Always funny when those who live intolerant lives think they should be afforded tolerance.

      Persecution complex looks good on you, bings.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:58 am |
    • observer

      bofferbings,

      Speaking of "militant", it's the militant Christians who are trying to force their beliefs on others in governmental meetings.

      Ooops. No problem. Just IGNORE the Golden Rule. A huge number of Christian do.

      May 6, 2014 at 3:03 am |
    • halfdime1

      "View the ultimate hypocrisy of the militant Atheist...
      He will deride anyone who believes in a higher power as an idi.ot ...
      Yet bemoan the supposed intolerance of the believer....whether Christiann, Hindu, Muslim or Jew."

      Needs a few changes

      View the ultimate hypocrisy of the persecuted Chrisitan, who lies in the majority.
      He will twist things around, he will equate the phrase no religion in the public square as religious people are idi-ots
      Yet bemoan that he is humble, while trying to exert power over other beliefs.

      There fixed it.

      May 6, 2014 at 3:16 am |
    • tallulah131

      Didn't you have another name yesterday? Weren't you called thefinisher or something like that?

      May 6, 2014 at 3:36 am |
  4. halfdime1

    no matter how they twist it, this is just Chritians trying to exert control on the rest of the public. This is just akin to saying if you don't like it the get out, or deal it with, were in charge here. Bullying and childish and not at all impartial and secular, sad.

    May 6, 2014 at 2:36 am |
  5. franchescool

    I'm a Christian and firmly believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. But I also believe in separation of church and state. There is NO reason for government meetings to have prayer. I can pray anytime and anywhere, I can live without a hearing a prayer invoked at a government function or meeting. My Christian beliefs do not preclude me from respecting others' beliefs.

    May 6, 2014 at 2:34 am |
    • seedenbetter

      Too bad more Christians aren't like you.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:01 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        That's the difference between a real Christian and the faux Christians that inhabit most of the country and this blog

        May 6, 2014 at 9:05 am |
  6. thatinthebible

    TWO THINGS:

    1. Do so-called religious minorities really want to lead prayer, or do they just want to somehow censor others? I'm curious...

    2. If you don't like the idea of prayer before gatherings/meetings talked about in this post because of your opposition to religion, just remember that payers like these prayers are also a tradition.

    I'm blogging at http://isthatinthebible.com

    May 6, 2014 at 2:32 am |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      Are they?

      Is there something wrong with praying in your church....your home? Why is it necessary to jam it down other peoples throat?
      That is what is happening here....

      May 6, 2014 at 2:56 am |
    • tallulah131

      Non-christians simply want the equal protection promised to them by the Constiitution of the United States. The Supreme Court is out of line and should be ashamed. They have forgotten what they should be defending. Any Justice unable to put their nation before their faith should retire.

      May 6, 2014 at 3:40 am |
    • jakejoh

      Why the term "so-called religious minorities"? They are religious minorities?
      Why should a custom be permitted just because it is a custom?

      May 6, 2014 at 10:11 am |
  7. bofferbings

    Why do atheists get so worked up at nonsensical invocations to a being no more real than the Flying Spaghetti Monster ???

    May 6, 2014 at 2:31 am |
    • observer

      observer

      bofferbings

      Why can't you pray BEFORE or AFTER a meeting instead and ACTUALLY practice the Golden Rule?

      May 6, 2014 at 2:34 am |
      • bofferbings

        I can.
        What part of the Golden Rule is being violated here, pray tell.
        How can someone possibly be offended by the fact that someone else believes in a nonsensical being?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:40 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Since you may not be familiar with it, the Golden Rule states that you should treat others as you would like them to treat you. Atheists DO NOT try to force their beliefs on people in government meetings. It is hypocritical Christians who don't actually practice the Golden Rule.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:42 am |
        • bofferbings

          How is my prayer to an imaginary being FORCING you to do anything???
          Except possibly to have the human courtesy to respect someone else's beliefs...
          LOL...Of course respect for the beliefs of others is the LAST thing you will get from an Atheist.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:46 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings

          "How is my prayer to an imaginary being FORCING you to do anything???"

          You are FORCING people to listen to your religiousness while they are SUPPOSED to be there for a public meeting. You are FORCING them to waste their time with something TOTALLY UNRELATED to the meeting.

          Try again.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:49 am |
        • ssq41

          bings, YOU have no respect for anyone else's beliefs....the prayers end in "...in Jesus name."

          YOU have no respect for Kagan since you put "" around the word "woman" when you described her.

          You're just another childish Christian who "respects" only those who think, believe, act and look like you.

          You are also un-American, since you are incapable of respecting other's opinions.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:51 am |
        • bobjohnson23

          No one is offended by the belief. Just worship your nonsensical being outside of government meetings. I'm guessing you're not as thick about this issue as you pretend to be.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:53 am |
        • jakejoh

          The belief is not the problem. The problem is that the government is sponsoring and implicitly endorsing a set of religious beliefs.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:13 am |
        • igaftr

          boffer
          "How is my prayer to an imaginary being FORCING you to do anything???"
          If there are 60 people at the meeting, and you take one minute for your relgious display, you wasted one hour of the peoples time. You FORCED the people to lose one hour of time.

          Do you start ALL business meetings with a prayer? ALL classes you take, you start all of your college classes with prayer? Of clurse not, because it is inapproprite. Same with a government business meeting. Wasting the peoples time with a religious display is inappropriate.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • flightfromfrostmtn

      Because it is unnecessary and inappropriate at a governmental assembly. If you want to weaken somebody's position you shove them to the outside you do what you can to separate them from the group- us vs the godless heathen and the jew. apparently thats what happened here.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:38 am |
      • bofferbings

        That is your opinion. Everyone has one.
        Let's stick with the facts.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:41 am |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          enlighten me:)

          May 6, 2014 at 2:44 am |
    • halfdime1

      Why do atheists get so worked up at nonsensical invocations to a being no more real than the Flying Spaghetti Monster ???

      I can only speak for myself, but mostly its for impartiality in the public square.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:38 am |
      • bofferbings

        The ruling has nothing to do with the actions of the government. It simply upholds the right of individuals to practice their faith. I am sure there will be communities where Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu prayers will be spoken...and well there should be.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:43 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings

          "The ruling has nothing to do with the actions of the government"

          We are talking about a meeting that is ALL ABOUT government actions. Ooops.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:45 am |
        • halfdime1

          "The ruling has nothing to do with the actions of the government"

          It does actually, because these would be government workers praying, and it doesn't matter to me if what denomination they were either. I'm sorry but my tax dollars should not be contributed to government workers so they can wasting time wish thinking.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:48 am |
        • bofferbings

          The prayer come BEFORE the meeting.
          What you would really like is for believers to be excluded from the decision making process.
          I hear there are such places.
          Try North Korea.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:49 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings

          "they come BEFORE the meeting." So believers come EARLIER to do that? lol. Get real.

          "What you would really like is for believers to be excluded from the decision making process."
          That statement is either: (1) a total lie, (2) wishful thinking, or (3) delusional.
          So which was it?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:52 am |
        • ssq41

          bings....you should ask Putin for some land in the Ukraine...Christians like you only want a world that is your color, your creed and your tongue.

          I'm sure Putin would sell it cheap...your brother's and sisters look and act like he does. Thank God for the godless Consti.tution...it is the only thing keeping you from acting like the radical terrorist Muslims.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:55 am |
        • jakejoh

          The ruling is explicitly about having a religious ceremony that is sponsored by a government body.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:16 am |
    • bobjohnson23

      You show how disingenuous you are by focusing only on atheists. How about Jews, Muslims, or Satanists? Can they get "worked up" about having to sit through a Christian prayer? Do you really think that if a Muslim got on the council, the rest of them would be just fine with a reading from the Quran before every meeting?

      May 6, 2014 at 2:50 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      If you're so quick to admit it's not real, why pray to it at all? That respect Christians demand goes all ways...keep your belief to the privacy of your home and church and stop trying to impose it on others. We have valid reason to be upset when your ilk is out there pushing it on others especially when pushing it on others means you think you're right and no-one else is or when your ilk try to use the belief to deny rights to others (LGBT; women's rights-abortion; birth control).

      (Nice alias change there thefinisher/salero/Atheist Hunter. Too bad the screen can be seen through)

      May 6, 2014 at 4:46 am |
  8. mocasea

    I see a lot of extremes here. On both sides. As a minority religious group (less that 500,000 openly practicing nationwide) I find that those who seek to push their religion into government, law and even public meeting are the worst when it comes to defending that belief. At best they pay lip service to their religion, while failing at the most basic levels to follow the teachings of their religion. They use it as a cudgel to force people to submit to their views and ideals.

    As for Justice Kennedy, I thing the justice needs to re-examine their role. "Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy." I'm not a big fan of slippery slope arguments, and this is borderline, but in what the justice said it boils down to 'Will the person who leaves on personal views of religion, also have their points and objections dismissed as not being noteworthy" because they chose to leave during the opening prayer. By leaving the individual is forcing themselves to be singled out. This leaves a conundrum for them; do they single themselves out, or do they stand around silently as they witness something objectionable or distasteful?

    In finality I'm tired of hearing about "The War on Christianity." The "War" isn't being brought to them, but by them. Every time a person objects to Christian influence, every time someone states "Christianity doesn't and shouldn't govern my life," every time someone points toward the establishment clause it isn't because they went SEEKING the Christians, it is because the Christians forced their way into that persons life. I am not Christian, and by no means should I be forced to live by Christian coda or law. If Christians want to end this "War" then stop bringing your beliefs into the lives of those who do not follow your beliefs.

    May 6, 2014 at 2:24 am |
  9. bofferbings

    The government is not supporting anything except the right of people to express their religious convictions. No one is forced to join in.
    There is a religious component to every testimony in every trial in this country everyday...a forced component...yet the sky is NOT falling and no one's religious freedoms are being trampled on.

    May 6, 2014 at 2:24 am |
    • observer

      bofferbings

      "There is a religious component to every testimony in every trial in this country everyday"

      Absolute RIDICULOUS NONSENSE.

      Get real. Next you'll try to claim our laws are based on the Bible.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:26 am |
      • bofferbings

        Does a witness not have to raise his right hand a swear to tell the truth before testifying???.....LOL...

        May 6, 2014 at 2:29 am |
        • observer

          NOT a requirement, not even for Congressmen or the president.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:32 am |
        • bobjohnson23

          No, you do not. The question is "swear or affirm".

          May 6, 2014 at 2:46 am |
        • bofferbings

          Semantics.

          May 6, 2014 at 3:00 am |
        • bobjohnson23

          Semantics? In other words, you're completely wrong, and you're not secure enough in your position to admit it. That pretty much invalidates all of your other arguments. Well done.

          May 6, 2014 at 3:04 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Not even all presidents have sworn on the Bible.

          Please start doing some research.

          May 6, 2014 at 3:05 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      boffer: You're a fool! More likely a POE given how you admit to the god Christians hold dearly being invisible. Prayer has no place outside of the home or church.

      May 6, 2014 at 4:52 am |
    • jakejoh

      If you are speaking about "swearing in," by placing one's hand on a bible, that is not the case. A witness or defendant can raise his or her hand and swear "to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." No affirmation of a god is, by law, required.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:21 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        Boff....I would never swear on any bible, as it is total bunk unworthy of my intention. And no court in the land would make me do it. They stopped that nonsense long ago

        May 6, 2014 at 10:24 am |
  10. observer

    bofferbings,

    Please give ONE REASON why prayer is necessary at a government occasion.

    Is your religion so shaky it MUST have one? Is your religion so shaky that you can't have one before or after the meeting instead when it won't SELFISHLY impact others?

    May 6, 2014 at 2:20 am |
    • bofferbings

      Who said it was necessary??? The court certainly did not. They simply said a group of people had a right to exercise their religious conviction, even if they happened to be in a government building.
      Why is your Atheism so "shaky" it can be impacted by what are apparently nothing more than invocations to an imaginary "sky-fairy" ???

      May 6, 2014 at 2:27 am |
      • observer

        bofferbings

        So the prayer is unnecessary and infringes on the time of other people there for BUSINESS.

        Why can't you pray BEFORE or AFTER a meeting instead and ACTUALLY practice the Golden Rule?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:30 am |
        • bofferbings

          No one said it was necessary. Simply that people had the right.
          They can pray before the meeting.
          They can also pray after the meeting.
          But clearly, the court upheld the right of people to choose to pray while gathered AT the meeting.
          Since religion and god are such nonsense...what is so offensive???

          May 6, 2014 at 2:34 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Right. There is no good reason to try to force your beliefs on others. Atheists aren't doing that at meetings. Why do you IGNORE the Golden Rule. Any answer other than HYPOCRISY?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:38 am |
  11. jonasmcgreggor

    So I guess what should be done is, they need to get an atheist up there to give a little speech as to why they don't believe.
    Then let the muslims have their turn, then the hindus, then the scientologists, then the mormons, ect ect.
    Soon the meetings will consist of nothing but prayers.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:58 am |
    • bofferbings

      What you are talking about is proselytization, NOT prayer. Big difference.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:00 am |
      • observer

        bofferbings,

        So no complaints from you if atheists are given time to read from George Carlin, right?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:02 am |
        • bofferbings

          As long as it is a prayer, or Al Sleet, the Hippy, Dippy Weatherman, I have zero problem with it.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:04 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Try spreading that idea among Christians and then you'll know what a minority is like.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:07 am |
      • jonasmcgreggor

        I don't think they're any different at all.
        They're up there promoting what they believe, so you don't get to have a problem with someone being up there promoting critical thinking and skepticism.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:17 am |
      • dawshoss

        What you don't understand is that to others outside your religion, prayer IS proselytization. You need to see things from the perspective of others. Think about if everywhere you went government meetings started with 2 minutes of talking about how there is no god, ergo we are left to ourselves to pitch in to help the world, because "remember, there is no god".

        May 6, 2014 at 2:27 am |
      • halfdime1

        "What you are talking about is proselytization, NOT prayer. Big difference."

        So when muslims, hindus, mormons, jews etc do it, its proseltyzing, but when christians do it its prayer?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:44 am |
      • jakejoh

        The government body is this case invited people to lead a prayer. This is not about a group of people who want to pray before a meeting. It is about the government explicitly endorsing a religious belief.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:23 am |
  12. bofferbings

    "Less than 23% of Americans told pollsters at Fairleigh Dickinson University that they dislike prayers at public government meetings"

    Democracy is a real bit.ch sometimes, isn't it ???

    May 6, 2014 at 1:49 am |
    • observer

      bofferbings,

      So one out of every 4 or 5 Americans oppose it.

      Keep showing you don't care at all about the Golden Rule. Well done.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:52 am |
      • bofferbings

        I respect your right to say a prayer to whatever god you wish. And if you are an atheist, I respect your right to say no prayer at all.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:55 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Get real. Christians would go absolutely mad if atheists were able to give atheistic readings at government meetings.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:06 am |
    • dawshoss

      You just showed one of the failings of pure democracy when it gives no credence to minority rights.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:00 am |
      • bofferbings

        Exactly what minority "right" is being trampled upon here ???

        May 6, 2014 at 2:02 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Why should nonbelievers be FORCED to listen to religious statements in a GOVERNMENT meeting? ANY ANSWER?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:05 am |
        • bofferbings

          They are not forced to listen to anything. They can go elsewhere if they wish.
          It just strikes me as somewhat strange that atheists, who simply, "lack belief" can be so outraged by the belief of others.
          You don't believe ii. Great. How does the belief of others hurt you in any way shape or form ?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:10 am |
        • dawshoss

          Right against religious beliefs being promoted by your government. A government that is supported by a plurality of peoples morally should not give preference to one of those people and use resources of a people against their religion or culture. It should be neutral.

          Do you want a government that would use your taxes to promote atheism? Do you want your representatives to start meetings with an official disavowal of God?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:11 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings

          "They are not forced to listen to anything."

          lol. You are sitting in a room for a government meeting and you are going to pretend you aren't forced to hear what is said in the room?

          Get real. YOU can pray elsewhere if God can wait or can't he?

          May 6, 2014 at 2:15 am |
        • bofferbings

          @daw
          The government is not supporting anything religious. The individual members of the body are simply excercising their religious freedoms. That's it.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:15 am |
        • dawshoss

          The right to not have to pay for the promotion of beliefs that are contrary to your own. These meetings are run on the government dime. Part of which I had to pay for. Prayer takes up time and time is money. Instead of working, which I do pay my representatives to do, here they are praying out loud using "company time" to say my beliefs are wrong.

          It's simply just inappropriate, and against the spirit of a pluralistic society respecting all individuals.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:19 am |
    • halfdime1

      ""Less than 23% of Americans told pollsters at Fairleigh Dickinson University that they dislike prayers at public government meetings"

      Democracy is a real bit.ch sometimes, isn't it ???"

      This is a funny statement, because if the roles were reversed and religion was marginalized, you seem like the type of person who would complain that your rights were being infringed upon. If you aren't them im sorry for the generalization. But we all know people who would. And another funny thing is, in that type of scenario, it would be the athiests, humanists, and secularist who would be fighting for your right to practice your religion, albeit in private settings.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:55 am |
    • halfdime1

      "The government is not supporting anything religious. The individual members of the body are simply excercising their religious freedoms."

      So the government isn't supporting anything religious, just the right for christians to say religious prayers? Got it.

      May 6, 2014 at 3:00 am |
  13. tiglathpileser1

    "So, the Muslim woman has two choices, Kagan argues: 1) Go along with the majority and pray, despite her religious objections, or 2) Risk causing some kind of disturbance or public disagreement with the very people she is trying to persuade."
    Really? These are teh only two choices she has?? That is an excellent example of what is wrong with the world today, it really is all about me and my comfort. How about trying the third option that I use often, stand respectfully and keep your mouth shut until the others are finished...how hard is that. I do not partake in the national anthems of other countries at sporting events, but I stand respectfully and keep my mouth shut while others partake. It is not about forcing my views on everyone else, it is about letting them enjoy theirs.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:48 am |
    • bofferbings

      Imagine a "woman" like Kagan being hostile towards those with some sort of religious convictions. Imagine.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:51 am |
  14. dawshoss

    "If you don't like it, leave the room." And here I thought my tax dollars helped pay for the room like everyone else's....

    May 6, 2014 at 1:41 am |
    • bofferbings

      You can come back to the room. Shoot, you can even organize your own prayer. The ruling protects that right.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:46 am |
      • dawshoss

        Why should I have to leave at all? Why is a room I helped pay for, that I'm forced to pay for, being used to disavow my beliefs? Why is a room I helped pay for being used to promote religious belief, isn't that what churches are for?

        Would you want me to start pubic meetings with a chant that there is no god?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:05 am |
        • bofferbings

          LOL...that chant would be proselytization , not prayer.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:20 am |
      • observer

        bofferbings,

        lol. Double-talk.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:22 am |
      • bobjohnson23

        So I'm appearing before this group to, say, ask for a zoning exemption. You say that when they start the Christian prayer, I should visibly walk out in the middle of it, then later return and organize, say, a Muslim prayer. Then when that's done, I'm supposed to ask for my zoning exemption and assume that no one will look at me any differently? Is that how government is supposed to work?

        May 6, 2014 at 3:10 am |
  15. edan1776

    This is a sad day for the Separation Principle, and for the legacy of this SCOTUS. I can't believe they used as part of their argument the fact that prayers opened the Continental Congress. You know, the same Continental Congress that recognized slavery as valid too. And denied women the vote. Because we all know that whatever was good in 1776 should be good today, right?

    Unbelievable. It would be ironically funny if it weren't so sad. If we ever needed a reminder that we can't allow a Republican president in 2016 so he can fill SCOTUS vacancies with more conservatives, this is our wakeup call.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
    • jjmcdade

      I agree. We need to be more like North Korea. Say what you want about North Korea, at least they have the common sense to purge anyone who questions their godless authority. I also agree that Christians should be responsible for events that happened hundreds of years ago, and that putting history into proper context or mentioning that Christians where behind the movements to free women and slaves will only cause confusion. Everybody knows that atheists have the best human rights, look at China, Cambodia, Soviet Union, Eastern Blocs and the French Revolution. And I don't care what the dictionaries says, atheism is not a belief, therefore, I can say whatever I want and call it science.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:11 am |
      • observer

        jjmcdade,

        The Bible supports slavery. Fortunately, many Christians don't believe in many of the "morals" like that in the Bible.

        May 6, 2014 at 2:17 am |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        for sure because every atheist is a North Korean right?

        the RCC lost its bid to control Europe a few centuries ago- that is the only reason Christianity isnt as effective as Islam in the micromanagement of peoples lives.

        the usual dishonest twists and turns.....

        May 6, 2014 at 2:25 am |
      • edan1776

        jj, nice sermon. Too bad it had nothing to do with the post you were supposedly replying to. The justices used the fact that the Continental Congress had prayer to support the contention that today's governmental bodies should also have it, as if nothing had changed in the last 238 years. That was the point. Obviously, many things have changed, and the time for prayer in public governmental meetings should be over. The Separation Principle has never been more relevant than it is today. This thread, including Christian Nation leanings like yours, is excellent evidence of that.

        May 6, 2014 at 3:48 am |
  16. bofferbings

    The left applauds when the courts uphold a woman's right to kill an unborn child.
    Yet, they cry "foul" when a few people are allowed to say a prayer before a meeting.
    Bravo. Bravo.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:32 am |
    • ssq41

      How sad that your fath requires public/state acknowledgement to be real.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:34 am |
      • bofferbings

        It doesn't. People simply have the right to their own religious convictions. When enough of them get together and want to pray together, they have that right. This ruling protects that right.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings

          What you are saying is that it supports your supposed "right" to try to force your beliefs on others. So much for the Golden Rule, but HYPOCRISY is nothing new for many believers.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:41 am |
        • ssq41

          bings....you're not that stupid...re-read the ruling. If you want to pray as a group of believers, then perhaps you should go to church on Sunday.

          Have a small group meeting in your living room.

          Pray in your bathtub.

          No need for it publically. It is only a witnessing tool when done publically. Therefore, it is dishonest.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:43 am |
        • bofferbings

          No one is being forced to do anything. Please.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:45 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          WRONG. Nonbelievers are FORCED to wait while you give a prayer that you apparently were UNABLE to do elsewhere.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:47 am |
        • bofferbings

          You can wait. It's not going to kill you. You are still not being forced into an activity you don't want to participate in.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:53 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          You can WAIT and pray later, when you won't impact anyone else.

          Any REASON why you can't wait?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:55 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I applaud when the court rules in a woman having autonomy over her body...yep, sure do.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
    • observer

      bofferbings,

      The right likes to force their beliefs on others, including PRETENDING that the Bible ever mentions the word "abortion".

      May 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
      • bofferbings

        Who said anything about abortion.? Abortion is just a convenient term for murdering an unborn child.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:41 am |
        • ssq41

          As someone else said earlier...please, bings, next time you see a police officer, flag her down and tell her all about those murders.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:44 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          An unborn child is not a child anymore than the eggs in my refrigerator are chickens.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:47 am |
        • dawshoss

          Actually the bible recommends abortion in certain cases, look up references to "bitter water". The woman is to drink it if she is impregnated by someone other than her husband, which will cause an abortion.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:49 am |
        • observer

          bofferbings,

          Murder is ILLEGAL. Abortion is LEGAL. You don't know what you are talking about.

          The Bible NEVER mentions abortion, but does talk about a drink that apparently causes it.

          May 6, 2014 at 2:00 am |
      • halfdime1

        Aww abortion. Like George Carlin says, the religious are always talking about the sancti-ty of life for the unborn, but once your here F-you your one your own.

        May 6, 2014 at 4:12 am |
    • bobjohnson23

      You know that if Kennedy voted the other way, Christians would be complaining with much greater force.

      May 6, 2014 at 2:57 am |
    • jakejoh

      I'm not sure that you understand the actual case that was presented to the Supreme Court. There was no mention of a few people who wanted to pray. The case was about the town inviting ministers in to lead a prayer: the government body was actively promoting religion.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:29 am |
  17. Dyslexic doG

    just another step toward a Christian theocracy. Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito just took a big dump on the founding fathers' graves. Disgusting cultish behaviour.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:30 am |
    • bofferbings

      LOL...the founders would applaud this decision. Not a single major "framer" could even remotely be called an Atheist. Nothing about this decision threatens the separation of church and state.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:37 am |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        They are supposed to interpret the law impartially, regardless of their personal stance or beliefs. I view the SCOTUS as special in that it is the peoples last line of defense from any overreaches by the other two branches.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:47 am |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        "Nothing about this decision threatens the separation of church and state."

        Religion should never intrude on governmental proceedings. Such an action can be,and probably was used as a marginalizing tactic.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:53 am |
      • dawshoss

        They were mostly Deists actually, pretty much the atheists of the time. No Jesus as savior, no bible as inherent word, and no praying. "In God We Trust" refers to trusting God over the bible; instead of words written by men, you were to look to nature for finding God's intentions for humanity. Books written by men may or may not be of God, the world itself had to be from God.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:54 am |
      • bobjohnson23

        :Not a single major "framer" could even remotely be called an Atheist.

        You are obviously unaware that Jefferson took the Bible and wrote his own version, removing all passages that had to do with mystical superior beings.

        May 6, 2014 at 3:14 am |
      • tallulah131

        Bofferbings, thefinisher, lolly... whatever you're calling yourself today: You keep changing your name but your rhetoric remains the same. You are nothing but a troll and I wish people would stop feeding you.

        May 6, 2014 at 3:42 am |
  18. midwest rail

    This ruling provides a temporary feel-good moment for some. The law of unintended consequences will inevitably rear its head and obliterate that moment.

    May 6, 2014 at 1:14 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Allah akbar!!

      Ummm...ooops.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:24 am |
      • flightfromfrostmtn

        Community meeting in Detroit....you know its coming:))

        May 6, 2014 at 2:05 am |
  19. colin31714

    They actually did an experiment with sick people in Australia in the 80s. 5 groups of 500 people with different ailments of different severities were isolated. The 5 groups were split as follows

    A. For the first group of 500 sick people, Christian volunteers prayed to God that their condition would improve.
    B. For the second group of 500 sick people, Muslim volunteers prayed to Allah that their condition would improve.
    C. For the third group of 500 sick people, Australian Aboriginals performed traditional ceremonies to their ancestral spirits that their condition would improve.
    D. For the fourth group, Hindu volunteers prayed for their recovery.
    E. The fifth group was a control group for whom no prayers, chants or other supernatural imploring occurred.

    Similarly, researchers in the USA traced the social development of three major issues in recent history for which millions and millions of Christians have prayed in an effort to affect the outcome:

    A. Abortion
    B. Gay rights and gay marriage
    C. School prayer

    In the first experiment, none of the five groups did any better than the other four. Improvements were randomly distributed across all groups. In other words, Christian prayers work no better than doing nothing, or to praying to Allah, Brahma or some Aboriginal ancestor spirits.

    In the second, the Christians continued to lose and continue to lose to this day. Despite millions and millions of prayers, the anti-Christian position continues to make strides and the Christians keep losing and being pushed further and further back.

    Then we have the famous Benson study from Harvard University. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.

    The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

    The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. Zero. No connection whatsoever. In other words, yet another scientifically rigorous study found prayer to be useless.

    Tellingly, there has NEVER been one that found that it worked.

    Finally, the horrors of the terrorist attacks of 9-11 are probably still very familiar to most people. The first plane hit the North Tower, entering the building on the 91st -98th floor. There were approximately 1300 people at or above the impact zone. You may recall the horrific sights of people jumping to their deaths. Indeed, one of the first firefighter casualties is believed to have been struck and killed by a jumping victim.

    Recordings reveal how virtually all of these 1300 odd victims prayed for help. Film shows jumpers blessing themselves before plunging to their deaths. And yet every single person on or above the 91st floor died. Many died horrific, painful, burning deaths as their prayers (and those of their loved ones on the ground) were ignored. Below the 90th floor, virtually everybody survived, whether they prayed or not.

    It is clear that prayers were, once again, shown to be utterly impotent and useless. A person’s chances of survival were dictated by something as random as their location in the building when the plane hit, not by whether they prayed.

    I would invite any Christian who still, despite ALL evidence to the contrary, believes that when they pray, a being that created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, reads their minds and will intervene to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to answer them, to consider the following.

    Line up every amputee in the World. There must be a few million. Pray to the Christian god that just one of them grows a new arm or leg and see what happens. We know the result. You could line up millions of Christians to pray their heart out for decades and not one limb would re-grow.

    Prayer will fail. It will fail 100% of the time – always and forever, for the simple and obvious reason that there is no (Hindu, Christian, Muslim or other) god there listening to you. It only ever “works” when the outcome was going to occur anyway, like a cancer going into remission, a person recovering from a serious, but curable illness, or a person below the 90th floor of the North Tower escaping the 9-11 disaster.

    It reminds me of the gambler who went to Vegas for the weekend. He decided to pray to God that a 4 would come up every time he rolled a die.

    Apparently God answered his prayer about once every six times -:)

    May 6, 2014 at 1:13 am |
    • nathanbrazil

      Wait... They did a full blown study, which I assume cost money, to decide who's prayers did best or if nothing worked just as well? Seriously? I am Catholic and even I could tell them the answer and save them a lot of time and money. What a bunch of idiots for doing such a study. Prayer is about faith, not about proof. Anyone who wasted time on such an experiment should have been locked away. And anyone who thinks such a study proves anything is seriously in need of some help.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:39 am |
      • colin31714

        nathanbrazil, you said, "Seriously? I am Catholic and even I could tell them the answer and save them a lot of time and money."

        And what answer would you give them?

        May 6, 2014 at 2:03 am |
  20. atroyfoster

    Why not just have a two minute "silent invocation" where everyone can just say their own prayer in their head or not.....why do Christians want to destroy this nation?

    May 6, 2014 at 12:58 am |
    • i12bphil

      Why would we destroy something we built? Why should we let you destroy it.

      May 6, 2014 at 1:09 am |
      • believer1bc

        very good point i12bphil...I'm guessing he can't answer that one.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:12 am |
        • ssq41

          "Why should we let you destroy it."

          Really?

          Why is your god so pathetically weak?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:16 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          asinine nonsense is difficult to answer.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:25 am |
        • i12bphil

          "Why is your god so pathetically weak?"

          He isn't. So again, I ask ...why should we let you destroy it? You can't, ...and your response is as weak as your argument.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:41 am |
        • tiglathpileser1

          @ Dyslexic kiD
          Funny you should quote C.S. Lewis who said precisly the same thing about many of the questions atheists tend to proffer about God.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:42 am |
        • ssq41

          Sorry, phil...but the daily lives of the Body of Christ confirm just how weak he is. Actually, their lives confirm his non-existence.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:47 am |
        • dawshoss

          How would lack of prayer destroy anything? Also, isn't this something like the genetic fallacy? What if tyrants founded a country, should that then excuse it for being a tyranny today? Some things are just wrong on principle, no matter the origin of a nation.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:58 am |
      • observer

        i12bphil,

        Why would cutting out a prayer destroy the nation? How shaky is your religion if that is a threat to it?

        May 6, 2014 at 1:15 am |
        • i12bphil

          How shaky is your freedom if the mere allowance of prayer feels like a threat when it isn't?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:42 am |
        • rickdday

          considering the elected leaders who swear allegiance to the Cult of Christ, and use an old book as rationale for passing modern law, a WHOLE LOT.

          Look, you LIKE it when God's law becomes secular. We don't. It is THAT simple. Prayer? OK if you insist. But when you take the name of Jesus as reason for passing a draconian law, that is where the issue lies.

          But you can't see it that way, can you? Your "Faith" requires constant shoring up, to the point you can't go to a meeting without the healing presence of The Lord.

          Sheep have no concept of a loving master or the slaughterhouse. Go baaa for me.

          May 6, 2014 at 8:32 am |
        • observer

          i12bphil,

          Stumped?

          May 6, 2014 at 1:43 am |
        • rickdday

          God took his tongue.

          May 6, 2014 at 8:34 am |
    • igaftr

      atroy
      "Why not just have a two minute "silent invocation" where everyone can just say their own prayer in their head or not....."

      Why not?...it is a waste of time. If 60 people are in attendance, two minutes means TWO HOURS wasted.
      It is inappropriate and a waste of time. Expensive time.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:49 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.