Can We Still Pray at Government Meetings?
January 15, 2013
Dear Social Conservative Review readers:
On January 7, the director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty, Ken Klukowski, filed a compelling brief with the U.S. Supreme Court concerning efforts to prevent prayer at the beginning of government meetings (whether they be municipal, county, state, or federal).
Signed by 49 Members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the document makes a convincing argument that prayers before government meetings are constitutional and a matter of religious liberty for all Americans. You can read the brief in its entirety here.
FRC filed the brief on behalf of the Members to support the Alliance Defending Freedom's petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway. In Galloway, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the use of public prayer before town meetings in the town of Greece, New York was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
The Second Circuit Court maintained that a prayer is unconstitutional if it contains frequent Christian references or if those saying the prayer say "we" when offering it. Also, the Second Circuit Court ruled that government-meeting prayers are unconstitutional if too few prayers in a given venue are offered by non-Christians. Ironically, this was despite the town of Greece's highly inclusive policy that allowed even practicing Wiccans and atheists to offer civic prayers.
In the brief, Klukowski argues:
Since its creation, the United States House of Representatives has begun its daily sessions with prayer. Both chambers of the First Congress passed resolutions to hire a salaried chaplain, whose foremost duty is to open each session with a formal invocation seeking the blessing of God on the people's elected Representatives as those leaders discharge their official duties ... These (congressional signatories) regard legislative prayer as important for policymaking bodies, both to solemnize official occasions and to seek God's blessing, wisdom, and guidance in making consequential decisions. Each Member also represents municipalities, school districts, and counties--not unlike Petitioner Town of Greece--and part of a sovereign State, each of which is governed by a body that practices legislative prayer at the outset of its meetings and sessions.
FRC President Tony Perkins, noting the importance of the case, said:
The Founders understood that religion is good for society, and defended "the free exercise thereof." Family Research Council is honored that 49 Members of Congress, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have chosen FRC to present their arguments to the nation's highest Court. We hope the Supreme Court will reject the freedom-threatening Second Circuit opinion in this case, and reverse it.
FRC's friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom have compiled a list of all relevant briefs, including FRC's and that of a group of distinguished theologians.
As we go forward advancing our cherished religious liberty in this effort, we ask for your prayers, both for wisdom for us and for a sound outcome from the nation's senior jurists.
Family Research Council