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

[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Is there now a maximum number of posts on the Belief Blog?

    I hit a point last night where no matter what I typed nothing would post. The behavior was the same as using a 'rude' word.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Not that I have had happened.

      Glitch maybe.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • crittermom2

      I'm hitting the same wall, and all I'm trying to do is quote Ibsen.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Has anyone posted the list of 'rude' words for you?

        May 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Please let me know if you need the full list. The word fragments that pop up the most for me include:
        t.it, v.ag, c.um, sp.ic

        I got tripped up on the word thorny yesterday. Sometimes it requires some linear thinking to see the word.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
        • crittermom2

          I would like the list, please. I ended up paraphrasing on the next page, but it's annoying not knowing what the problem was. Especially when I learned the filter prefers "fart" to fla tul ent.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        This list may not be complete. Perhaps fla.tul.ent needs to be added.

        ar-se...............as in ar-senic, spar-se, pa-rse
        ass-hole........(yet ass is OK)
        cia-lis..............as in Ci-alis (the drug) socia-lism, social-list, specia-list, etc (sometimes)
        co-ck...............as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
        co-on..............as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
        crack-er..........as in crack-erjack
        cu-m...............as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
        cu-nt...............as in Scu-nthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
        ef-fing.............as in ef-fing filter
        ft-w...................as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
        ho-mo............as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more etc.
        hoo-ters.........hoot, hootie, and hooter is okay. More than one hooter is bad.
        ho-rny.............as in tho-rny, etc.
        hu-mp............as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
        jacka-ss........yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
        ja-p.................as in ja-panese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
        koo-ch............as in koo-chie koo..!
        o-rgy......................as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
        po-on....................as in spo-on, po-ontang, harpo-on, etc
        p-orn.....................as in p-ornography
        pr-ick.....................as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
        ra-pe.....................as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
        se-x .......................as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
        sh-@t...................but shat is OK
        sm-ut...................as in transm-ute
        sp-ic.....................as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
        sp-ook.................as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
        strip-per..............strip and stripe are OK
        ti-t.........................as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, anti-thesis, ti-the etc.
        tw-at....................as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, saltw-ater, etc.
        va-g .....................as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
        who-re................as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

        Other phrases that someone found, "wo-nderful us" “info-rms us”

        May 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
    • igaftr

      I've had that happen. Most of the time, clearing your browser cache will clear up the issue.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
      • Doris

        Yeah – I was getting ready to recommend that and a reboot if that doesn't work.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I didn't think to clear my cache. Thanks.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
      • crittermom2

        I'm sure that's helpful advice, if I knew what a cache was! LOL - low tech granny here.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  2. ldadvocatus

    Why wouldn't they? Elected officials decide. Under the same process (net the electoral college of course) that elected the current president...majority rules. Either get in the game and play to win to get your preference elected or move to another jurisdiction. Fair for one...fair for all.

    "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.

    Majority rules [ electoral college majority rules ] seems to be ok to elect a president. [ insert factual percentage ] of voters didn't vote for the current president. The decision is final for four years and those losing voters get to swing the bat again.

    The only promise is the opportunity to get your way vs actually get your way. The irony (or paradox) is that the more accommodating society is, the less freedom it has when the tail wags the dog.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Majority rules does not apply to issues of Individual rights. And if it ever did you would not want to live in that country.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
  3. Doris

    Here are some ideas for your next town board meetings:

    1. Recite the elven prayer A Elbereth Gilthoniel":

    A Elbereth Gilthoniel
    silivren penna míriel
    o menel aglar elenath!
    o galadhremmin ennorath,
    Fanuilos, le linnathon
    nef aear, sí nef aearon!

    A Elbereth Gilthoniel
    o menel palan-diriel,
    le nallon sí di'nguruthos!
    A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

    2. Show your worship of the Madonna and go ahead and dress up like her as in her video "Like a Prayer".

    Bring a boombox with a karaoke version of the song so you can sing along.

    3. Recite the prayer from John 17 (the "longest prayer"), but make sure to stop on each occurrence of the word "I" with extra emphasis as you speak it, waiting each time and looking at each member of the audience's eyes before continuing.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen,
      yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!
      Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier
      mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva
      Andúnë pella, Vardo tellumar
      nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni
      ómaryo airetári-lírinen.

      Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?

      An sí Tintallë Varda Oiolossëo
      ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortanë,
      ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë;
      ar sindanóriello caita mornië
      i falmalinnar imbë met, ar hísië
      untúpa Calaciryo míri oialë.
      Sí vanwa ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!

      Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
      Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!

      Namárië (or Galadriel's Lament)

      May 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  4. ddm11

    So,I take it that other people can just continue conversation aloud with neighbors, or do a buddhist chant, etc aloud while others are doing the christian prayer aloud. Doesn't make much sense.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • carboncow

      Yes it does make sense, let me explain to your simple minds.

      If a government is permitting such a prayer then they endorse it...and there is to be a separation of church and state. How can I trust my government to make good decisions for me and my family if they are picking a religion that can appear to be odds or war with my beliefs? How do I know that government is not bias against my non beliefs?

      Would you be fine with devil worship messages before such meetins? How about islam...you people seem to love obsessing about that sh1t these days!

      May 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
      • ddm11

        Cow – you seem to be supporting my comment.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
  5. mopizzle11

    Unless I am missing a huge part of this...WHO CARES IF THEY ARE PRAYING?! Let them do what makes them happy. Nobody is forcing you to pray or to say Amen.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • igaftr

      Many people care. I for one want to get down to business, and not have to be forced to wait and watch some religious display at a government business meeting. It is a waste of my time and everyones esle's time. I don't understand why anyone thinks that leading ANY prayer at a business meeting is appropriate.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
    • magicpanties

      So you'd be fine if they were reading from the Koran, or the Book of the Dead, or some Wiccan stuff, right?

      The problem, dumbo, is that they only recite Christian crap. Why should a non-christian have to listen or leave?
      There is no [rational] place for religion of any kind in government.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • otoh2


      Religion and government are not to mix.

      If this were to be a meeting of the Welcome Wagon or the Elks Club it would be a different matter.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • radar8

      What if we have Muslim prayers at the beginning of the meetings? Is that OK with you? Because if you think that it's OK to have Christian prayers, then it should be OK to have other religions represented.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
    • SeaVik

      If it's a government meeting supposedly open to all citizens of any or no religion, then there obviously should be no prayers to start it off.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • ddm11

      Why go along with it or leave? People are there for another purpose, so it doesn't make sense to leave. Everyone can pray 24/7 silently without disturbing others. Why should anyone else be subject to listening to you? I suppose you will even feel offended if the others continue conversations as loudly, or reciting other beliefs as loudly while christians do their thing. Too bad – guess you can't deny them their right to do so.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Concert in an Egg

    This just takes some prickly non-Christians to be a complete pain in the ass at every meeting, insisting on equal time and praying to Thor or some other god. Could be a lot of fun if you go with it.

    May 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • samsstones

      How about Pastafairian's demanding beer and noodles be served.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        LOL – exactly. Just go with it man, it will be a blast.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
  7. kobrakai7474

    One of the most basic tenets of Christianity is one of the ten commandments, "thou shalt have no other Gods before me". Well, for those Christians applauding this ruling (and, to be clear, I am a Christian who is NOT applauding this ruling), you have better understand that eventually, somewhere, in some backwater burg, someplace in this nation, there WILL be a town or village or borough that will have a Muslim or, heck, a Wiccan or even a Satanist majority. When that happens, they will, in accordance with this ruling, have every right to pray to THEIR god(s) before a town meeting. Remember, being part of such a prayer will be expressly against your own religion. Are you sure you are cool with that? The Supreme Court has now ruled so there is no changing it back so get ready for the day when one of you is going to have to pray to Allah or the Great Satan himself in order to get a permit to build a shed in your backyard.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Madtown

      I'd say it doesn't even need to be a backwater burg, this will happen everywhere. Minority religious groups will be lining up to get their equal time. Whatever amount of governmental efficiency(or lack of) we currently have, it will now nosedive because we're too busy praying to actually do the work of governing.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • neverbeenhappieratheist

      Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it...

      May 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • Vic

      Conflation is a big problem.

      No one is forcing anyone to pray here when the "majority" elects to do so.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • Madtown

        Rights are to protect the minority against the majority.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • Vic

          There you have it wrong!

          Everybody's "Rights" are to be protected, whether in the majority or in the minority. Viewing it as 'against' defeats the whole purpose!

          May 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • joey3467

          Vic, in this case the minorities rights are in no way being protected, in my opinion, they are being trampled on.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • neverbeenhappieratheist

          It is the constltution that prevents a majority from granting tyrannical powers to the government in a time of crises. It also prevents a majority from easily taking away the rights of minorities for it's third primary function of protecting individual liberties of American citizens, whether they belong to a majority or a minority we are to be equal under the law.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
        • Madtown

          as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “the great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.”

          May 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
        • Vic

          "Everybody's "Rights" are to be protected," that says it all.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • Madtown

          "Everybody's "Rights" are to be protected
          I agree completely. Your rights to religious exercise are not compromised in any way by leaving prayer out of governmental proceedings that are secular, and for the common good. You are free to exercise your religion, but also exercise consideration and appropriateness. You live in a society comprised of other humans, and a level of decorum and respect is necessary. If you disagree, go to the movies tonight, and in the middle of the show stand up and pray loudly. If you won't do this, why would you expect to do it in a governmental setting?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
        • neverbeenhappieratheist

          "Everybody's "Rights" are to be protected," that says it all."

          So what about my right to walk around naked on public sidewalks? What? You mean my right to walk around naked shouldn't overwrite your right not to see me naked? You mean my right not to be forced to listen to religious sermons or prayers should be overwriten by your apparent right to force me to? Total dog doo doo and you know it. No one has the rights to step on other citizens rights.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
  8. neverbeenhappieratheist

    Does anyone here believe they should have the right to show up to work on time and clock in, then spend the first 5 minutes of work praying aloud to your co-workers? How do you think your boss should react to this? As the employers of these elected officials why would we allow this? We are paying them to do secular jobs for the local community, what is different here?

    May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am |
    • Madtown

      Exactly. It's one large can of worms.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  9. samsstones

    Southern Baptist Convention
    Let us prey.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • Theo Phileo


      May 6, 2014 at 11:40 am |
      • samsstones

        Oh dear, the great interpreter of every and all bible verses needs my explanation of a simple statement. LOL

        May 6, 2014 at 11:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "I don't know what stopped Jesus Christ from turning every hungry stone into bread
      And I don't remember hearing how Moses reacted when the innocent first born sons lay dead.
      I guess God was a lot more demonstrative back when He flamboyantly parted the seas.
      Now everybody's praying
      Don't prey on me"

      – Brett Gurewitz

      May 6, 2014 at 11:58 am |
  10. troyison

    LOL, I love how many are talking about how this effects 'their' Rights...

    No, it doesn't. This isn't a effect on your 'rights', it is a definition. SCOTUS just told you what your Rights 'are' in this case. You'll need to argue this a different way. Right now, this definition 'is' your 'rights' associated with prayer in a public meeting...

    If you don't like it, you'll need Congress to enact a law overruling the SCOTUS findings, something that would probably require an Amendment at this point.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • bostontola

      Not at all, this is a minor ruling that will more likely rankle religious people in the future than atheists.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government's placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services."

      – Supreme Court of the United States, 1962

      May 6, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • otoh2

      "If you don't like it, you'll need Congress to enact a law overruling the SCOTUS findings, something that would probably require an Amendment at this point."

      I don't know what the next step is, and it'll probably be costly; but it needs to be done. This ruling is wrong. In fact, I don't know how the Senate & the House get away with starting their sessions with religious prayers either.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:59 am |
      • otoh2

        p.s. I know that the phrase "religious prayers" is probably redundant, but it's done for emphasis.

        May 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Doris

      "you'll need Congress to enact a law overruling the SCOTUS findings, something that would probably require an Amendment at this point."

      For that route, it would require an Amendment. What would be more likely in this case would simply be a newer court that would overturn the previous decision. It doesn't happen frequently – I think it's happened maybe ten times, but I think this case is a likely candidate to be overturned by a later SCOTUS.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  11. observer

    (Matt. 7:12) “Treat others as you want them to treat you. THIS IS WHAT THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS ARE ALL ABOUT.” [Jesus]

    Just more HYPOCRISY from Christians.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • Vic

      Mutuality is intrinsic to the "Golden Rule;" otherwise, there is no such thing.

      This issue is about "Free Exercise." Without the "Free Exercise," there is no such freedom.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:32 am |
      • bostontola

        Are you saying Christians don't have to treat others as they would like to be treated if the other person doesn't do the same?

        May 6, 2014 at 11:34 am |
      • observer


        Which "side" is trying to FORCE it's beliefs on the other?

        Which "side" is trying to FORCE it's beliefs into meetings that have NOTHING to do with religion?

        It's a clear hypocritical violation of the Golden Rule, which Christians love to preach but not practice.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:36 am |
        • Vic

          Again, by the same token, the LGBT community would be violating the "Golden Rule" by their public displays, e.g. parades, affection, etc.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Should Mardi Gras be banned? I mean, the big parades, the public displays, the boo/bies flashing everywhere....
          And if you are to prohibited same gender displays of affection, would you do the same for hetero couples?
          Perhaps it would be best to behave like Muslim countries where one person has to walk behind....

          May 6, 2014 at 11:49 am |
        • Madtown

          LOL. Vic wants a new commandment: Thou shall not love.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:50 am |
        • neverbeenhappieratheist

          What I think Vic and the Christian community don't apparently understand is that these are PAID employees who are on the clock and are wasting tax payer money by requiring these prayers. The LGBT have parades on their own time, not yours or mine. Big difference there with the whole "free exercise" part when you have agreed to take pay in exchange for your time, it's not your time anymore.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
        • observer


          You are thoroughly confused about the difference between the Golden Rule and doing EVERYTHING someone else wants.

          When gays want to have time to speak before every government meeting, then you will BEGIN to have credibility.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
        • Vic

          Not exactly.

          You brought up the "Golden Rule," and I am just addressing your premise as such. Plus, while it was at the tip of my tongue, someone else beat me to it, you don't want to open that can of warms. We can never have perfect solutions, there are too many gray areas, everybody needs to keep it within reason and learn how to compromise.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • neverbeenhappieratheist

          This is not a "gray" area Vic. This is clearly black and white. You apply for a job in my community by running a campaign for a paid office that my local tax dollars pay for and you get elected then show up to your first scheduled meeting and decide to spend the first 5 minutes – eating donuts instead of working, speaking to the audience about your personal problems with your wife, telling the audience about an upcoming play your kid will be in, telling the captive audience about the benefits of being gay, speaking to them about God or praying aloud to your God regardless of which God the rest of the audience believes in. None of that is okay with me, I want them to get to work when they are on the clock. Otherwise it is stealing and I happen to know the bible does not look kindly on thieves.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
        • ldadvocatus

          Observer – good point...since you don't have any beliefs to force on anyone you will always be reacting to any belief won't you? It is odd that that Christians are fare game. You will be taken seriously when you criticize Islam's God with equal force. Oh wait a minute, they claim to share the same God....so, you must think you can criticize them by proxy through Christians, yes?

          May 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
    • benhoody

      Quit whinning?

      May 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • ldadvocatus

      Observer – oh learned one....hypocrisy is where deeds don't match the words, right? Christians are as human as the next person and subject to the same human condition as you. But, of course you must always say what you mean and do what you say, yes?

      At least Christians have something worthwhile to aspire to...and, they aren't afraid to try to be better...even if it turns out to be a fairy tale....what's the worst that can happen to them? On the other hand, seems like your risk of uncertainty is much greater.

      Guess what...Nobody knows...not even you. Otherwise, faith would be unnecessary and this game would end.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
  12. thecryptowizard

    "You can pray"
    For prayer: Allowed to exercise their freedom of religion
    Against prayer: Allowed to exercise their freedom to leave

    "You CAN'T pray"
    For prayer: Not allowed to exercise their freedom of religion
    Against prayer: Infringes on the rights of others to exercise their freedom of religion

    This was the right decision. There are too many cases these days where one group attempts to take away the rights of another group. The courts exists to maximize the rights, freedoms, and justice for all groups as equally as possible. And that's exactly what happened here.

    I applaud this decision.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:16 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      Crypto....applaud all you want, but you are wrong in your logic. Prayer at a government meeting has no more business being there than a handball game. This has nothing to do with any freedoms....I shouldn't be allowed to waste time with a handball game any more than you should waste time with a prayer.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:21 am |
    • bostontola

      The issue was not whether 'you can pray' (anyone can at any time), it is whether the Government should have prayer as part of it's official conduct.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:22 am |
    • igaftr

      Why do you think any prayer before a government business meeting is appropriate? Do you start every other business meeting with prayer, all college classes? Of course not, because it is inappropriate. It is a waste of the peoples time, that government business has to wait for a religious display.
      If 60 people attend the meeting and you take 1 minute for your religious display, you wated 1 hour of the peoples time.
      Why do you think it is appropriate for you to waste EVERYONES time, with a display of YOUR religion? Not allowing prayer does not violate any religion. You are still free to practice your religion, it is simply inappropriate for you to do it at a government business meeting. Practice your religion freely...nothing in your belief requires you to practice at a government meeting.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • radar8

      Using your logic, it would be OK if we had Muslim prayers at the beginning of government meetings. SCOTUS didn't say CHristian Prayer is OK... THey said Prayer is OK... any prayer. I can't wait until some muslims demand equal time and you have to sit and listen to muslims pray.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
  13. bostontola

    Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves composed a prayer in response to the SCOTUS ruling:

    "Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan."

    You reap what you sow.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:15 am |
    • Theo Phileo

      And yet even Satan cowers in submission to the sovereignty of Almighty God.
      > When arraigned in Eden, he listened to the awful sentence given to him, but answered not a word
      > He was unable to touch Job until God granted him leave
      > He had to gain our Lord’s consent before he could “sift Peter like wheat”
      > When Christ commanded him to depart: “Get thee hence, Satan,” we read, “Then the devil leaveth Him.” (Matthew 4:11)
      > And, in the end, he will be cast into the lake of fire which has been prepared for him and his angels…

      James 2:19 – the demons also believe, and shudder. See also Matthew 8:29...

      May 6, 2014 at 11:23 am |
      • bostontola

        Of course. And Lord Voldemort has no chance against Harry Potter, it's in the Book.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          The point I was trying to make is that the only understanding of Satan that we have comes from the Bible, and it seems that those who wish to side themselves with him are discarding MOST of what is said about him. I've read the Bible to the end – we win. Would someone believe the Bible that such a one as him exists, but not that he is condemned? Or are they just calling themselves by his name just to raise eyebrows? (honest question)

          May 6, 2014 at 11:37 am |
        • bostontola

          And my point is the bible is fiction. Good fiction mind you, se.x, violence, intrigue, it's got it all.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:40 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          If it's fiction, prove that God doesn't exist.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:41 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          Theo....you can't prove a negative. Prove the Easter Bunny is not real please

          May 6, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • samsstones

          You missed bostontola's point that the whole thing is fiction just like Harry Potter.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:43 am |
        • Madtown

          understanding of Satan that we have comes from the Bible
          How are you defining "we", when so many of your human brethren have no idea the bible exists?

          May 6, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          "You missed bostontola's point that the whole thing is fiction just like Harry Potter."
          No, I understood his point. But it is a foolish point to make because in it, he is assuming that since he has not been convinced himself of God's existence, then it must not be so. He is assuming that truth is determined by only the standards that he adheres to, and has become convinced of. Basically, it says "If I don't understand something, then it must not be true."

          May 6, 2014 at 11:51 am |
        • samsstones

          That is just plain stupid, you can write fiction based on subject that may or may not be real, the Theogony for example or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Prove the FSM does not exist!!

          May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          No, the bible is an encapsulation of the idea of "If I don't understand something, then god must have done it."
          Believers make the claim of a god – the only evidence being the respective creation myth; our god is so great he created the universe and this is how he did it. Unfortunately no creation myth withstands the scrutiny of modern knowledge – they are all incorrect. Therefore no evidence for a god. Do you have any tangible evidence that is not the disproven creation myth in the bible? Until you do you have to accept that it too is fiction.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • bostontola

      Satanic prayers coming soon to Government meetings near you. Good luck trying to stop it after this ruling. You reap what you sow.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:25 am |
      • Theo Phileo

        Then I'd just leave the room while they did so. As atheists are so prone to tell me "we live in a secular society." OK, so if they want to do that, that's their perogative in this secular society, it's just a simple matter of me not taking any part in it. I have walked out of rooms before when people were to pray in a manner that I didn't agree with. (the president's inaguration for example) What the big deal?

        May 6, 2014 at 11:31 am |
        • bostontola

          I'm glad you feel that way. There will be plenty of others that don't.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • Madtown

          I'd just leave the room
          You don't think this action would go unnoticed by those who don't leave? Humans are imperfect, there's a good chance that opinions may devleop about you, based on this action, that would then have a negative impact on you down the road. Bias develops, whether it's right or wrong, or unintentional. Why even leave this possibility out there? So you can exercise your right of prayer anyplace/anytime? Still not good enough that you just pray on your own? You know........like Jesus actually asked you to in Matthew 6:6?

          May 6, 2014 at 11:54 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          Dude, whatever people think about me is none of my business, and it doesn't bother me one bit.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Dude, whatever people think about me is none of my business, and it doesn't bother me one bit."

          That's all well and good, but don't you see how your failure to participate could bias those that do against anything you might bring up during the rest of the meeting? Is that an environment you want to practice government in?

          May 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
      • samsstones

        Why not just stick your fingers in your ears and chant na na na, the Topher thing to do.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:47 am |
        • Theo Phileo

          How childish. The responsible and mature thing to do is simply to excuse yourself when something occurs that you don't agree with. This is a problem to you?

          May 6, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • samsstones

          Tell Topher that not me.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
        • samsstones

          BTW I have attended many denominations at weddings and funerals and politely listened but did not participate. For example sat quitelly when people were asked to stand or kneel and remained silent when hymns were sung. The adult thing to do.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          I think you view this as an infrequent occurrence which could probably be easily ignored. I believe that comes from the fact that it your religion whose prayers are said. Imagine that you attended each meeting and each time it was initiated by, say, Shinto prayer. How long before you would object?

          May 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • joey3467

          Theo, I feel the mature thing to do is sit there and be quiet, and at least pretend to be respectful. Getting up and leaving is rude and makes you look like a jerk in my opinion.\

          May 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
  14. kobrakai7474

    It is only a matter of time before some muslim-majority town in the United States decides to pray to Allah before a town meeting instead of saying a Christian prayer. I hope you'all are prepared to accept that because you can't have it both ways.

    May 6, 2014 at 11:08 am |
    • troyison

      LOL, I've read the Qu'ran, I'd move. Why tempt them to do what their 'holy book' tells them to do about infidels?

      May 6, 2014 at 11:26 am |
      • Sungrazer

        Have you read the bible? It is also not kind to infidels.


        If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die.

        2 Chronicles:

        That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:39 am |
  15. Alias

    If I can't present logical thought and reason at your church, you shouldn't get to pray at my government meetings.

    May 6, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • gulliblenomore


      May 6, 2014 at 10:58 am |
    • bostontola

      "Reason is the Devil's greatest wh'ore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious wh'ore; she is a prosti.tute, the Devil's appointed wh'ore; wh'ore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."
      — Martin Luther

      May 6, 2014 at 11:04 am |
      • radar8

        Of course the CHurch is against reason. Thinking people are the enemy of the CHurch. THe Church relies on ignorant masses to stay in power. THe CHurch is not about god. THe church, and most other religions, are about power and control

        May 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • troyison

      The churches you visit must be pretty boring. I've been to many where that sort of discussion is flowing all the time. Makes for some good arguments.

      May 6, 2014 at 11:28 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        Troy...before entering a church, logic and reason must be checked at the door.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:32 am |
      • bostontola

        "We should always be disposed to believe that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the church so decides."
        — St. Ignatius Loyola, 1491 – 1556

        May 6, 2014 at 11:35 am |
      • igaftr

        Do they commonly do government business in your church? Of course not, so you shouldn't be using government time to practice your religion.

        May 6, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  16. hubert39

    No problem if they say a different prayer every day. With over 1000 religions they will have a different prayer every day for over three years.
    I bet some religions will be against the Pagan prayer.

    May 6, 2014 at 10:51 am |
  17. bostontola

    What made the US great? Not democracy, that existed back to at least the Greeks. It was our Consti.tution/Bill of Rights. The separation of powers is the genius that made us great. It protects the minorities from the majority. That is true freedom and our biggest strength. That freedom enabled an environment of unprecedented creativity and productivity.

    This ruling is minor, but will be seen by future historians as a small dent in that genius. Regression is embarrassing.

    May 6, 2014 at 10:48 am |
    • observer

      Well said.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:50 am |
  18. gulliblenomore

    Starting a government meeting with a prayer is just like starting the same meeting with a game of handball. I don't want either....and I like handball!

    May 6, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  19. Vic

    ♰♰♰ Jesus Christ Is Lord ♰♰♰

    From the article:
    "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?"

    "“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."

    The United States is a Christian nation by virtue of its people whom the majority of chooses to keep that heritage, and we are not talking about extremism here or anything of the sort, just everyday people. I believe that civility requires acknowledging that, given that there is no harm in it.

    In other related news, President Obama sided with Greece, NY.

    May 6, 2014 at 10:33 am |
    • Madtown

      In the interest of civility, and the promotion that no one's rights supercede anyone else's, why not just pray at home before you go to the meeting and engage in secular governmental work? Your rights in no way are being curtailed. Pray on your own, pray in the car. It is not stipulated that the proper exercise of your religious rights means that they need to occur in public in front of an audience. At the meeting, get down to the business of governing. Be efficient and leave the personal stuff at home.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:40 am |
      • Vic

        The "Free Exercise," hence the the "Free Exercise Clause," is not bound by where or when, it is per the individual and/or collectively. Restricting prayer to privacy by the state is reminiscent of the horrors of the persecution and annihilation by the Communist Red Bloc back in the days. The LGBT community demands rights to public affection, this is no different.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:53 am |
        • observer


          "The LGBT community demands rights to public affection, this is no different."

          So the LGBT community gets to give speeches before every government reading?

          Get back to reality.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:56 am |
        • Madtown

          You do realize that you live in a society, comprised of many different types of people who believe many different types of things? No, your rights do not come without responsibility toward your fellow man, because your rights don't supercede those of your fellow man. Do you have any sense of decency, and respect for people who are not you? WIll you be upset with me when I come to your daughter's piano recital, and when she's playing stand up and pray loudly so everyone can hear me? This is within my religious right.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:59 am |
        • Vic

          What ever the "majority" elects to do.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:59 am |
        • Vic

          No one is violating anyone's rights here, that's a given basic, and that's fully demonstrated in the quotes and comment in my OP.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:04 am |
        • observer


          The majority of people in the south support slavery, so what was wrong with that?

          May 6, 2014 at 11:10 am |
        • observer


          "No one is violating anyone's rights here"

          The Christians are violating the Golden Rule, but nothing new for many of them.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:11 am |
        • kobrakai7474

          The "free exercise clause" in the first amendment is only half of what the founding fathers said about religion and government. The "establishment clause" was just as important to them. They did not want ANY American to feel bullied by a majority faith that was not their own, and explicitly did NOT want the power of government used to do the bullying.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:12 am |
        • Vic

          By the same token, the LGBT community would be violating the "Golden Rule."

          This issue is not pertinent to the "Establishment Clause." No one is calling for state religion here, and no one is being bullied either.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:18 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          So Vic....you're saying I should be able to start a rousing game of handball at the start of a government meeting if that is my preference?

          May 6, 2014 at 11:24 am |
        • observer


          "By the same token, the LGBT community would be violating the "Golden Rule."

          WRONG. Equality does NOT violate the Golden Rule. Read it.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:22 am |
        • joey3467

          Gay people are following the Golden Rule, Vic, you will notice that they don't try and keep hetero couples from getting married to the person they love, however, good Christians such as yourself can't show them the same respect.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
        • johnsonzeb

          There is a diffrence between asking for the same basic rights and using your government position to force your religion on everyone else. What right do you have to tell someone they can't get married or show their love for another person in public. This has nothing to do with leading a government meeting (where you have a captured audience) with a religous prayer while excluding those who choose not to adhere to you religous view. Your response my make more sense if gay people were leading the government meeting and forcing everyone to dress up in drag in order to participate.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Establishment Clause, unlike the Free Exercise Clause, does not depend upon any showing of direct governmental compulsion and is violated by the enactment of laws which establish an official religion whether those laws operate directly to coerce nonobserving individuals or not.

      When the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.

      – Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Engel v. Vitale, 1962

      May 6, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • radar8

      What ever the "majority" elects to do.

      VIc – Please do a little research. One of the primary reasons that our government was set up as a Democratic Republic (as opposed to a pure democracy) was to "protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority". The Founding Fathers knew that every pure democracy never lasted because they eventually turned into mob rule, where the majority got all of the rights and everyone else had none.

      May 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
  20. crittermom2

    Oh, fer pete's sake, did I get censored for using the word flat.u.lence?

    May 6, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • crittermom2

      Apparently so. I will try again.

      I think even the prayer supporters will agree that their prayers are not a critical part of getting the business accomplished at the town meetings. Although they may enjoy the custom, it does not get the work done.

      Therefore, we go back to common courtesy. When you are doing something that you know is annoying other people, if it is not something you absolutely must do, it is polite to stop.

      This applies to smoking where others are bothered by your smoke, talking loudly in a theater, cracking your gum, or (here's the bad word) public flat.u.lence.

      Since your prayer is irrelevant to the business at hand, and unnecessary, it amounts to verbal flat.u.lence. If you must, please do it in private where it will not bother others.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:38 am |
      • bostontola

        Just say fart instead.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • crittermom2

          Ironically, I was trying to use a more polite term.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:06 am |
        • bostontola

          The great and wonderful Filter is all knowing. We couldn't hope to understand it.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:20 am |
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About this blog

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.