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

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(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. jerryab

    This sets the stage for ANY speech of any type–because if you don't like what you are hearing, it is your choice to LEAVE. Now, about that 'Fire!!" in the theater thing.....

    May 6, 2014 at 10:21 am |
    • crittermom2

      A few years back, I disputed my property tax assessment. I had to appear before a board of local officials and present my case. It was extremely important to me to make a good impression on these people, because, although of course they should be deciding my case on the facts, let's face it ... they're human. Their personal opinion of me was going to make an impression. That's why I made sure to dress appropriately, speak to them politely, make sure I got their names right, etc.

      If they were all Christians, and decided to open the session with a Christian prayer, what kind of impression do you think it would have made if I either failed to say "amen" at the end, or worse yet, walked out? I strongly believe they would have seen it as impolite or even hostile (especially the walking out part). I would have felt compelled to participate.

      THAT's why this is wrong.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:48 am |
      • G to the T

        Extremely well said crittermom2. I'm amazed that so many others don't see this as an issue...

        May 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
  2. annemarie

    We Americans have become intellectual hot-house plants who are afraid of people who have a different world view. We don't have the intellectual foundation for handling any ideas that are different from "what I think." We find such ideas too challenging. This is good: we need to be challenged by different ideas. It forces each of us to test our own ideas, and if my ideas are good, they will be strengthened by the challenge. If my ideas can't handle the challenge of someone who thinks differently, then my ideas are built on sand and they won't stand up very long.

    May 6, 2014 at 10:02 am |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    Many of these same arguments were put forward in the 60s when it came to school prayer.
    The SCOTUS ruling in Engel v. Vitale states:
    " Neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally neutral nor the fact that its observance on the part of the students is voluntary can serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause, as it might from the Free Exercise Clause, of the First Amendment, both of which are operative against the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    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.

    The Establishment Clause thus stands as an expression of principle on the part of the Founders of our Const.itution that religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its "unhallowed perversion" by a civil magistrate."

    May 6, 2014 at 9:53 am |
  4. colin31714

    Of course, it is all an exercise in futility. If ever there was anything that is harmless, ineffectual foolery, it is praying. 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 9:36 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      Colin....your logic is lost on the dumbfounded. Great post, though.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:39 am |
      • colin31714

        Thanks GNM. Unfortunately, putting logic and reason before a believer is like putting a Monet or Rembrandt before a blind man.

        May 6, 2014 at 9:43 am |
    • haskeli

      If he rolled four on every 6th roll while he was in Vegas that would either be a miracle (answering his prayer) or an unlikely set of events. I am devout, believe in God and pray on a regular basis. But I would judge this as an unlikely set of events. God would not interact with the universe to change a series of dice rolls.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:06 am |
      • colin31714

        Yeah, humor and sarcasm aren't your strong suits, hey haskeli.

        PS: "About once every six times." Not every sixth time.

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

          AH. I see my mistake. I assumed you were a craps player and thought the reference to a 4 was to BOTH dice. No one prays for a number to come on a specific die.

          May 6, 2014 at 10:26 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        Haskell....I think you missed the point of Colin's post. God wouldn't intercede on ANY prayer...mostly because he does not exist. The part of his post that was most compelling was the re growth of a limb. Very telling.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:13 am |
    • He Hate Me

      You seem pretty upset that people take solace in prayer. My question is why? If someone believes that prayer can bring good into his/her life, how does that affect you exactly? Also, for what it is worth (probably not much since you seem pretty set in your views), there are many who would argue that God does not intervene in every single trying moment in one's life, but rather gives you the strength to do your best to overcome obstacles. No pious person believes that every single thing you pray for comes true. The growing a limb argument was especially silly.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:29 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Individuals may take solace in whatever they like – just don't expect everyone else to join in.
        The man widely considered to be Canada's greatest Prime Minister routinely conferred with the spirits of his dead family, including his dog.
        He did not open Parliamentary sessions by having everyone offer a biscuit to Rover's spirit.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:34 am |
      • gulliblenomore

        He hate....silly? That example shows the exact reason why prayer is useless. Since, never in the history of mankind, has prayer ever assisted in the re growing of a limb, what would possibly make you think any god has a hand in any other supposed 'miracles'?

        May 6, 2014 at 10:37 am |
        • crittermom2

          He would probably answer the limb question by stating that the loss of the limb was god's will, or that god must have his reasons even if we can't understand them. That somehow works for those folks.

          May 6, 2014 at 11:14 am |
      • colin31714

        He Hate Me, you said, "You seem pretty upset that people take solace in prayer." No, not at all. I never said that, I didn't even hint at it. I don't care. My point is, it is useless, just like rubbing a rabbit's foot. I don't care if people do that either.

        If God does not intervene, then why pray? Also, that is not the claim Christians make, they claim prayer works – until it is tested, then it magically stops working.

        On the contrary, the regrowing a limb argument is very powerful and Christians have no answer as to why God can cure internal, uncertain medical conditions, but never external unambiguous ones.

        May 6, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Dyslexic doG

    talk to your imaginary friend at home or at your cult meeting place and, as the founding fathers wanted, keep government meetings for government business.

    May 6, 2014 at 9:15 am |
    • toad734

      Right, we don't show up and make laws at your church...

      Matthew 6:5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

      See, so they will fry for eternity for disobeying Jesus anyway.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:29 am |
  6. Theo Phileo

    "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 really matter, Kagan continues."
    And if indeed that is the case, then their prayers are nothing but a stink to God in the first place.

    Here's the deal, and everyone is going to be suprised that I say this, but if having one particular kind of prayer hinders business, then just have a seperate room where those of group "A" can go if they wish and hold prayer.

    Government doesn't do a very good job of modeling much of anything correctly, much less do they model FAITH correctly. (as evidenced by their prayers without meaning, being mere "clouds without water.")

    While under their governmental roles, they are to be representatives of the people – all people. Those who have faith may still pray, but let's do this sort of thing where it doesn't become a "show," and pray as we are commanded – "in your closet" if you will. Otherwise, it is more destructive to not only the man of faith, but also to others of non-faith, and business, and what kind of a witness is that?

    May 6, 2014 at 9:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Quite so, Theo.
      Those whose lives are guided by their faith shouldn't need to announce it.
      Lead by example, not ceremony and empty rhetoric.

      These public displays tend to come off as insincere.
      "I'm so modest that if they gave out awards for humility, I'd have 3 of them!"

      May 6, 2014 at 9:23 am |
    • G to the T

      I would agree with all you say except possibly for a "separate room" as that would need to be provided/paid for by the State. In my opinion, that place already exists and is called a church. As you said, once you arrive at your job as a civil servant, you should be there to do work.

      All in all, well said Theo.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:02 am |
    • Madtown

      just have a seperate room where those of group "A" can go if they wish and hold prayer
      This already exists: their homes. There's no reason they can't pray BEFORE they come to the meeting. There's no stipulation that religious rights have to be exercised in public. They can pray, on their own, before entering into a governmental exercise not backed by religion. This in no way prevents anyone from freely exercising their right of religious expression. Your rights do not supercede the rights of others.

      May 6, 2014 at 10:21 am |
    • Theo Phileo

      Any place of business is required by law (at least here in GA) to accomodate any religious belief in so far as it does not impose an "undo hardship" upon the business. Even hospitals provide a baraca to the public, government workers can use any available room – it isn't necessary to "provide" a room at the expense of the people, empty rooms exist, or those who wish to pray may come early. That's an easy accomodation without any "undo hardship."

      Those who are religious do not leave their faith at home when they go to work, neither SHOULD they, for it defines who they are. But rather than create dissention while in a public office where they are to be a representative of all people, if they wish to conduct prayers – let it be amongst those who will be encouraged by such a thing.

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

        neither SHOULD they, for it defines who they are
        Everyone is different, everyone is unique. Why do you have a need to display your personal uniqueness to a crowd? Why isn't it good enough to be who you are, believe what you believe, without putting it on display? You live in a society, comprised of many different types of people who believe many different types of things. Your rights DO NOT supercede the rights of people who dare think differently than you. If you're in government, you're there to do the work of the people....everyone. Including people with different religious beliefs than you. It in no way compromises your religious rights, to simply express them on your own time.

        May 6, 2014 at 10:54 am |
  7. seedenbetter

    Since Christians are in the majority they obviously have no issue with this. They are seen as arrogant bullies. One day when they are no longer in the majority and some other sky god cult takes over then they will be the first ones to try and overturn the ruling.

    May 6, 2014 at 8:53 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      Unfortunately, there are so many people that have pathetic lives here on earth that need to believe in something more, that religion of some sort, will probably never go away.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:57 am |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    Instead of a prayer to Christ, hold a brief seance to summon the spirits of the Founding Fathers.
    With lights dimmed, everyone in the meeting would join hands around a candle lit table and recite in unison:
    "Oh Founding Fathers, we bring you gifts from life into death. Commune with us and give your guidance."

    Those whose religious sensibilities are offended can simply leave the room.
    Their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even be noted.
    Such an invocation wouldn't be proselytizing, deni.grating nonbelievers or threatening damnation, so what's the problem?

    May 6, 2014 at 8:42 am |
    • saggyroy

      You know....that is just crazy enough to work!

      May 6, 2014 at 8:57 am |
    • samsstones

      I visited the Legislature in Toronto as part of a delegation and was surprised to learn that they alternate prayers from christian to hindu to buddhist and even aboriginal prayers, etc. Seems logical to include all beliefs in a multicultural state.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:10 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The difference between Canadian and US views on multi-culturalism are evident in our respective national metaphors.
        America is a "melting pot" where citizens should all blend in and become American.
        Canada is a "mosaic" where citizens are welcome to maintain their cultural identi/ties.
        Here in Toronto, as a middle-class caucasian male, I am the minority.

        May 6, 2014 at 9:29 am |
      • toad734

        ...And of course all the crack smoking.

        May 6, 2014 at 9:30 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Rob Forde is an embarrassment to our great country.

          May 6, 2014 at 9:38 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          That's only when the mayor leads the invocation.
          I'm still reeling over the excuse Ford gave the first time he got caught smoking crack – that he was so drunk he didn't realize what he was doing.

          May 6, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • colin31714

          I used to love the sushi restaurant, Sp.ice Route. Toronto has a lot of beautiful women.

          May 6, 2014 at 9:49 am |
  9. Phil

    “There is something in us that fears prayer as a maggot fears light. We must do violence to this voice, for it is not ourselves. It is our Enemy.” ~P.Kreeft

    May 6, 2014 at 8:30 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      "Praying to an invisible deity seems quite pointless" – me

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

      Fear of our nation changing from a secular government to a theocracy.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:58 am |
  10. 6packmuscle

    I am not really a religious person anymore. However I am very concerned about the fact and it is a fact. That Muslim's continue to push for their rights to religion through the world and no one has a problem with turning schools into mosques for Friday afternoon prayer or other public facilities, making swimming pools available to only muslim women during certain hours to stay within their own religious beliefs. Yet when the christians want to pray before a public meeting. Its a massive issue for everyone. The Christians need to fight to keep some of their own rights and to be blunt. Prayer is the least offensive of rituals for any belief system, so unless the christians start to request to re-inact some of the darker parts of the bible. Get over yourselves and like the supreme court says. Leave if you don't like it.

    May 6, 2014 at 8:28 am |
    • gulliblenomore

      6pack....would you mind me blowing cigarette smoke in your face? I despise having to listen to some jibberish prayer to an invisible deity as much as I abhor someone blowing smoke in my face. I will fight both equally

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

      Why do you think it is appropriate to pray before a public business meeting?
      Do you have prayer before every class you take, or pray before all business meetings? Of course not, because it is inappropriate, right place and right time. It is just as inappropraite to waste the peoples time with prayer before a government business meeting?
      Do you want me to come to your church service and waste YOUR time discussing zoning issues or budget concerns? That would be inappropriate wouldn't it?
      Pray BEFORE you arrive at the meeting if you think you need to, but there is NO REASON to hold the people back for a few minutes so they can practice their religion. It is the governments business...not a place to practice religion.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:42 am |
      • kermit4jc

        Being a Christian is nOT something we do on Sundays..it is our WHOLE life..our WHOLE being.....

        May 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
        • observer


          How incredibly SHAKY is your religion if it's necessary to pray at a meeting and you can't do it BEFORE or AFTER instead?

          May 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          HOW INCREDIBLY IGNORANT statement from you...."neccesary" we do it..again cause it is our LIFE...its who we are..im sorry you cannot accept that....

          May 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • mk

      Why are you standing up for the (imaginary) prejudices against christians? Why can't we just eliminate religious practices in any public forum and be done with it? Can you stand up for that?

      May 6, 2014 at 8:44 am |
  11. mk

    Why are christians so insecure that their prayers must be said out loud and in public?

    May 6, 2014 at 8:19 am |
    • igaftr

      It is the herd mentality. They need to feel like they belong to the same club, and they need their belief re-affirmed continuously...such is the nature of belief in something there is no evidence for...they have to re-assure each other constantly.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:45 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        beautifully put!

        May 6, 2014 at 9:13 am |
    • kermit4jc

      why must you comment on something you have absolutely no clue about? it isnt about insecurity....I live it..I know....apparently you dont

      May 6, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
  12. James XCIX

    Let the sectarian battles over what's considered the "right' kind of prayer begin... just as the founders feared.

    May 6, 2014 at 7:44 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The "right" kind of prayer should be inclusive of as many Americans as possible.
      Since Christians, Mormons, Jews and Muslims all accept the Torah as a foundational text, the prayer should be lifted from there.
      The meeting's chairperson would bring forth a pigeon, tear its head off, spill it's blood on the floor and then burn it.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:51 am |
  13. fweioff

    Weak-minded, irrational, ignorant, brainwashed nutjobs are holding back society.

    May 6, 2014 at 7:12 am |
    • samsstones

      I agree and isn't it amazing that they got appointed to the Supreme Court.

      May 6, 2014 at 7:37 am |
      • jakejoh

        My impression is that this ruling has nothing to do with interpretation of the law, but is instead meant to pander for votes in November: Republican court appointees support Christians, so all Christians should vote Republican. (Instead of voting for those awful people who support other religions or science and post Enlightenment thought in general.)

        May 6, 2014 at 9:15 am |
  14. actorforchrist

    I don't suppose it would help to shout out "It's the law of the land, deal with it" as so many people did upon the Court's ruling regarding the legality of Obamacare, would it?

    May 6, 2014 at 7:08 am |
  15. Bootyfunk

    pray before work, spend your lunch in prayer, pray after work - just do it outside work. pray at home, at a park or at church - just don't pray at work. is it really that much to ask? especially when you know it makes people of other faiths or no faiths uncomfortable? why do you have to bring your religious beliefs to work if not to push them on others? why not gather with your co-workers at one of your houses and pray before work?

    May 6, 2014 at 6:10 am |
    • kermit4jc

      and is it too much to ask that you amuse us for a time? its as if atheists donit need to do anything out of respect..but Christians have to instead.....sounds like double standard to me

      May 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
  16. neverbeenhappieratheist

    I'd like to see the average worker try this. Show up for work as a roofer or a cook or contractor or retail sales person on time and then tell your boss you will spend the first 5 minutes after clocking in in public prayer. See how well that goes over.

    May 6, 2014 at 5:35 am |
    • neverbeenhappieratheist

      So why couldn't that worker just pray before work you ask? Good question and not one addressed by this supreme court ruling for there is simply ZERO reason the elected officials couldn't either.

      May 6, 2014 at 5:39 am |
  17. neverbeenhappieratheist

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. You wanted majority rules, you should have been careful what you wished for Christians, for times, they are a changing...

    May 6, 2014 at 5:23 am |
  18. morleytr

    We're a democracy. The majority of this country is Christian. We do a lot of things a sizeable minority doesn't like. Get over it.

    May 6, 2014 at 4:46 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Majority means absolutely nothing when it comes to violating the rights of others and violating the laws that govern (The Constitution). Get over it, you reside in a secular country not a theocracy! Christians would be screaming and ranting if a pagan lead a prayer or a Muslim did, so there really is no difference when others get upset...common sense goes a long way when it comes to matters like this.

      May 6, 2014 at 4:56 am |
    • bengiund

      We are not a democracy, we are a republic which by it's very meaning is intended to prevent "mob rules"

      May 6, 2014 at 6:05 am |
    • Reality

      And for the next prayer at the Greece, NY's board meeting:

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’/Atheists' Creed 2014: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      May 6, 2014 at 7:02 am |
      • Reality

        And although said Creed will probably never be said at the board meeting, it has now been read by considerably more people so mission accomplished. And SCOTUS has made sure that I have the right to promulgate this Creed.

        May 6, 2014 at 7:05 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      In 1967, anti-miscagenation were deemed unconsti/tutional despite Gallup polls indicating that over 70% of Americans disapproved of inter-racial marriage.
      The majority isn't always right.

      May 6, 2014 at 8:55 am |
    • jakejoh

      Even in a democracy, the opinions of the majority are not allowed to toss out essential laws and rights. Otherwise, the majority could vote for slavery, or the seizure of the houses, say, of any group or person that they didn't like. Fifty one percent of the population could thus seize the houses of 49% of the population. But of course, the United States was not formed as a democracy. Even the pledge of allegiance makes it clear that it is a "republic" for which the flag stands.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:21 am |
    • fintronics

      •"The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system."
      – Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, Part 1

      May 6, 2014 at 10:08 am |
  19. phillykev2

    this why we have separation of church and state .....and 5 of our justices seem to have forgotten that ...what a disgrace they are

    May 6, 2014 at 4:32 am |
    • kermit4jc

      not at all..the justices may really be seeing the real intention of separation of church and state..not catering to atheists pansies who think there is a conspiracy

      May 6, 2014 at 4:35 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Sure and they don't have to cater to whiney Christians who like to think they are right and everyone else is wrong. It's not just about Atheists you fool; it's about respecting everyone regardless of belief but the word 'respect' is not something your parents have taught you yet, so we understand your ignorance when it comes to that. Grow up kermi, you reside in a secular country.

        May 6, 2014 at 4:58 am |
      • memoriesandlife

        So true. This liberal is totally over the minority dictating whether we can pray. Our country is rich in the tradition of freedom of worship. Then the crazy atheists started screaming about prayer in the schools....on and on. Thank Jstices for standing firm on what is right.

        May 6, 2014 at 6:16 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          There is nothing 'right' about not respecting all others and recognizing one belief over the other. You're not so liberal if you do not support or recognize that prayer has no place outside of the home and church.

          May 6, 2014 at 6:20 am |
        • sam stone

          it wasn't atheists who began the objection over prayer in schools, it was other "christians"

          May 6, 2014 at 6:47 am |
      • sam stone


        Go home and get your fvcking shinebox, ya jesus sucking little c word

        May 6, 2014 at 6:45 am |
    • Reality

      And what about all the other judges who have in past have supported prayers in Congress, state legislatures et al?

      May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am |
  20. kermit4jc

    People think that by listening to someone pray, we are forcing our beliefs on them....sounds like a conspiracy theory to me....ohhhhh nooo...careful...them Christians can control your mind.....BS! If you think other people can control your mind without your permission, youre nutso! Look at teens! Many of them TUNE out their parents when they don't wanna listen! YOu can control your own mind..if you don't like it..DONT LISTEN..it is that simple!..if at a meeting and they pray...put your mind on something else! You can do it..oh..and separation of church and state? this takes it too far the meaning....when at a meeting..they are nOT saying you have to believe in this religion (as they did in England during the times of persecution)

    May 6, 2014 at 4:18 am |
    • phillykev2

      "People think that by listening to someone pray, we are forcing our beliefs on them....sounds like a conspiracy theory to me....ohhhhh nooo"
      no it is about the state having a religion ......
      if they were praying to a Islamic god ....you and your ilk would be screaming bloody murder ......and then you be satisfied to be told don't listen ?.....i doubt that .....no this all about separation of church and state.....
      ".they are nOT saying you have to believe in this religion " ....YET

      May 6, 2014 at 4:26 am |
      • Mr. D.

        If there was an option to "like" or up vote your comment I would. So consider this that.

        I don't like their prayer, but I don't have to leave. I will simply start chanting "Separation of church and state" over and over. If they don't like it, they can leave.

        May 6, 2014 at 4:31 am |
        • kermit4jc

          you can leave..you don't need to be disrespectful to someone praying....

          May 6, 2014 at 4:34 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          No kermi, just silently say your prayer and stop making others hear it...rather simple!

          May 6, 2014 at 4:59 am |
        • neverbeenhappieratheist

          but Truth, Kermie can't really "feel" like he's Gods instrument unless everyone hears him pray. If you don't let them pray in public at these secular meetings who will know who is righteous or not? How can anyone judge their political representatives religiosity if we don't get to hear them pontificate before each meeting?

          May 6, 2014 at 5:31 am |
        • kermit4jc

          neverbeenhappier...shut up ok..stop your stupid accusations......

          May 6, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
        • TruthPrevails1

          neverbeenhappier: Righteous or delusional? In kermi's case, he is the latter or appears to be in most of his rants...crazy, uneducated he is, psychologist he is not. It is good to know who the crazies are and thus in turn who not to re-elect.

          May 6, 2014 at 6:33 am |
        • joey3467

          Or, Kermit, you could leave, you wouldn't want to be disrespectful to others by praying.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • kermit4jc

        I would nOT be screaming bloody murder...see..here we go with the false accusations.....maybe you should stop lumping all of us together..sure..there will be some Christians who will scrwm bloody murder..but I wont..I wil take my own frigging advice...I will tune them out....and philly....think before you type ok? ask people..don't be assuming everything all the time..it doesn't help you

        May 6, 2014 at 4:31 am |
      • kermit4jc

        and this BS of seperaiton of church and state as it sits right now is bogus..not what the founding fathers intended...especially in light of places like England in those times who say that you have to be a Catholic to be considered English...we have FREEDOM to PRACTICE our religion here....I have FREEDOM to pray in a PUBLIC place...ANYTIME I want to pray....

        May 6, 2014 at 4:33 am |
        • redzoa

          "I have FREEDOM to pray in a PUBLIC place...ANYTIME I want to pray...."

          Not exactly. Every freedom is subject to constraints serving some competing public interest. For example, you aren't free to stand up in the middle of a court room and start loudly praying. You are not free to quietly pray in the middle of an intersection during rush hour. You aren't free to use to cocaine in your prayer. Etc. Nonetheless, you are free to pray virtually whenever and where ever you wish, so long as your prayer activities don't encroach on other legitimate public interests.

          May 6, 2014 at 4:46 am |
        • kermit4jc

          very true..and praying at the beginning of a council meeting is nOT encroaching

          May 6, 2014 at 4:52 am |
        • elyhim01

          The problem here isn't prayer. It is government LED prayer. Most of us Atheists have no problem with people praying, use what works for you, that;s fine but don't have it led by the government or it's officials which lends credibility and punishment if you voice objection.

          May 6, 2014 at 7:56 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          I have a hard time understanding why people don't get the problem here. These same Christian nuts that think ear fvcking me with their obnoxious prayer noise is fine probably fought hard against smokers blowing smoke in their face. It is the same type of infringement.

          May 6, 2014 at 8:12 am |
        • joey3467

          You really are dumb aren't you? Catholic to be English? I don't think so, please try again.

          May 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • edan1776

      kermit, your logic works both ways.

      People think that by insisting on separation of church and state, we are forcing our beliefs on them....sounds like a conspiracy theory to me....ohhhhh nooo...careful...them Atheists can control your mind and drive the Christ right out of you.....BS! If you think other people can control your mind without your permission, you're nuts! YOU can control your own mind… if you don't like it..PRAY IN CHURCH OR AT HOME..it is that simple!..if at a meeting and there is no prayer...put your mind on something else, like your job, which the taxpayers are paying you to do! You can do it...

      May 6, 2014 at 4:33 am |
      • kermit4jc

        oh yes..censor prayer and limit our freedom? we can do it where we want..we have that freedom...the government shall make nO law prohibiting the FREE EXCERCISE thereof..our praying at public meetings does NO harm to anyone.....

        May 6, 2014 at 4:38 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Oh kermi, you simple minded frog!! You can pray all you wish but do so silently so no-one else has to be affected by you speaking to the air...we know from the numerous studies done that prayer does nothing but make the lazy man think they are doing good when in fact they're doing zilch.

          May 6, 2014 at 6:23 am |
        • fintronics

          This is about forcing your brand of mythology into a public forum. Disgusting!

          May 6, 2014 at 7:34 am |
        • kermit4jc

          It is NOT forcing at all..unless you agree that we can control your mind for you..and you cant.....simple....

          May 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
        • fintronics

          "government forum"

          May 6, 2014 at 11:15 am |
        • gulliblenomore

          Kermit....the reason we don't allow smokers the freedom to smoke wherever they want is because it bothers people. Just because prayer does not bother you does not mean it does not bother other people. It bothers me to no end!

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

          Keep that in mind the next time you vote against gay marriage. After all, two individuals getting married shouldn't affect your view according to your own logic. "If you think other people can control your mind without your permission, youre nutso!" Christians are the first ones to complain when a gay couple displays public affection. Isn't it their right to do so. If seems rather hypocritical that Christian can decide what is appropriate for a government led meeting and what is not.

          May 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
        • observer


          "our praying at public meetings does NO harm to anyone"

          WRONG. It FORCES people to listen to your religious views. It FORCES people to waste time on topics OTHER THAN the purpose of the meeting.

          It also violates the Golden Rule, but Christians do that all the time.

          May 6, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          It dioes NOT force you to do ANYTHINGH..apparently YOU are incapable of controlling your mind...you are at the whims of other people..they control your mind..plus..i do NOt see any guns or weapons present..threatening you to listen...uyoure pathetic...I have a mind of mY own and I can TUNE people out..i do NOT have to listen to others..apparently you dont have that talent

          May 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
      • kermit4jc

        BTW when praying Zfozr my job it is ON my job.....

        May 6, 2014 at 4:39 am |
    • jakejoh

      What you are leaving out is that this is government sponsored prayer: the city is endorsing a religious view. No one is saying that people should not be allowed to pray. The argument is instead that a government should not endorse a religion.

      May 6, 2014 at 9:23 am |
    • otoh2

      "ohhhhh nooo...careful...them Christians can control your mind....."

      You, with your voodoo mentality, **would** think that's what nonbelievers think. It is not. It's a practical waste of time and an illegal mixing of religion and government. That's all.


      "they are nOT saying you have to believe in this religion (as they did in England during the times of persecution)

      You need to read up on how those very same oh-so-'persecuted' Puritan pilgrims treated alternate believers or nonbelievers in **their** new colonies over here...

      May 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      kermit if you can't see the issue with this, then there is no hope for you.

      May 6, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
      • kermit4jc

        IM not the one with the issue of being paranoid of people controlling my mind.....

        May 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
      • hawaiiguest


        You really don't get it do you? Whoever said that? Point to the person who actually said that prayers in government meetings control minds? I know you won't, and I know you can't because you're just throwing out rhetorical bullshit to try and avoid what the actual issue really is.

        May 6, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          uhhh..the ones who are syaing that we IMPOSE or FORCE it on them! hello...we dont impose or FORCE anythnig on anyone.....if we did..they are at fault cause they ALLOW us...and they do NOT have to allow us to do so..they can USE their OWN mind and TUNE out.....its sad to falsely accusse of our intentions as that we are forcing you to listen...as i said..no weapions or use of threat are present

          May 6, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
        • hawaiiguest


          What is being imposed is that the supreme court ruling allows only prayers that are considered "traditional". How is that defined? In the minds of many, including those on the government body in NY it would mean only christian prayers. They are not representing a pluralistic nation, they are only attempting to represent a view that happens to be in the majority because it's in the majority. What is being imposed is that their constituents are being forced to pay through taxes to have the well poisoned against them.
          Are you so attached to your christian privelage that you really can't see that?

          May 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          hahaha...riiight...sounds more like you want an oligarchy...rule of the minority..the country was based on rule of MAJORITY......that does NOT mean we exclude others..and SOME place it is traditional for sheiks to pray (im thinking of some places in northern california) so it is the MAJORITY....and again....there is no imposing or forcing as the other bloggers been claiming...talk to them about it then

          May 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
        • observer


          "..we dont impose or FORCE anythnig on anyone.....'

          Great! So you no longer believe in FORCING people to hear your prayers or FORCING meetings to be delayed so you can participate in religious activities that could be done EARLIER or BEFORE.

          It's about time you agreed with the Golden Rule. Good for you.

          May 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          yes..i agree..we dont force it.....the only ones crying "foul" are those who assume they havbe no choice..that they cannot conrtrol their minds and tune people out for a moment

          May 6, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
        • hawaiiguest


          Wow you really are stupid. This is not a simple majority rules country. This is a constitutional democracy you idiot. That means that the constitution overrules the majority. Unfortunately, you have people like Rick Perry and most of the rest of the republican party who talk about getting only a certain view of what that means into the supreme court. You aren't interested in fairness and inclusiveness are you kermit?

          May 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          LOL..I am the stupid one>? fairness? with all the different people we have in USA? how can you have fairness amongst every single person..it cannot happen....duuuuuuuuh..somewhere someone is always left out of things.....

          May 7, 2014 at 2:07 am |
        • In Santa We Trust

          so you'd be fine if your school held, say, Hindu prayers each morning as part of assembly?

          May 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          FINALLY! someone willing to ASK rather than assume! I don't mind....cause I take my own advice..I tune them out if I don't want to listen...I been all over Europe, Asia, and USA>..I been to events where other religions prayed over things...I tune them out..am I the only one willing to do so?

          May 7, 2014 at 2:08 am |
        • otoh2

          "SOME place it is traditional for sheiks to pray (im thinking of some places in northern california)"

          I think you mean Sikhs - and would you really expect a City Council meeting in Yuba City (with a large Sikh population, for example) to begin with Sikh prayers?

          May 6, 2014 at 6:49 pm |
        • otoh2

          p.s. and calling them "sheiks" - how dare you accuse anyone else of "cultural ignorance"!

          May 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
        • kermit4jc

          DUH/...it was a typo idiot..stop trying to find things about me and assume I don't know carp..I am married to a foreigner..I been all over Europe and asia..I have studied about different cultures..especially Asian cultures....you think Im perfect? sorry..Im not..but that doesn't mean IM stupid either.....just back off ok and stick to the issues rather than the personal stuff....

          May 7, 2014 at 2:13 am |
        • hawaiiguest


          Actually, there is a religion where the adherents are called sheiks, they're the ones who carry the ceremonial daggers at all times.

          May 6, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
        • otoh2


          Those are Sikhs who must carry a replica of a dagger (kirpan?), AFAIK.

          Sheik is an Arab t.itle - and yes, I suppose they have some daggers too, but the Sikhs are known for it. Plus, kermit was referencing northern California, where there is a fairly large Sikh population, but not many sheiks.

          May 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
        • hawaiiguest

          I had the spelling wrong. Those two always confused me.

          May 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
        • otoh2

          "Sikh" is pronounced like "seek", not "sick", so I suppose if someone uses a mushy 's' at the beginning it could be a little confusing.

          May 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
        • hawaiiguest


          Yes fairness, that's what neutrality of religious observances by the government is. Either let everyone play, or none at all. That's what this country was founded upon, not allowing religion to interfere in any way with governance no matter how small.

          May 7, 2014 at 4:09 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.