Today the United States Supreme Court said it was just fine to have prayers from a "chaplain of the month" open a town's public meetings.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, said the prayers were merely ceremonial. They were neither unduly sectarian nor likely to make members of other faiths feel unwelcome.
“Ceremonial prayer,” he wrote, “is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”
Well, it wasn't just a conservative vs. liberal divide among the judges who voted 5-4 to allow the prayers. All five of the judges in favor of praying are practicing Catholics. The four who were opposed to praying at public meetings were Jewish (three) and a non-churchgoing Catholic (one).
This is one more bad Supreme Court decision. As the above-linked LA TImes story said:
Justice Elena Kagan faulted the majority for approving an official policy of "religious favoritism." In her dissent, she said the majority might view the matter differently had a "mostly Muslim town" opened its session with Muslim prayers or if a Jewish community invited a rabbi every month.
More difficult to imagine, but possible, is a mostly-atheist community starting public meetings with a paean to the scientific method and a godless way of life. I'd enjoy being able to serve as a "non-chaplain of the month" who gets to non-pray something like this:
We come together in praise of facts, sound reasoning, and devotion to scientific ways of looking at the world. We affirm our commitment to shun unfounded religious beliefs, faith-based decision-making, and supernaturalism of all kinds.
There is no evidence of God, just reality. We pledge to do our best to make this world a better place, ignoring those who would substitute fantasies of heavenly realms and life after death for what is demonstrably real here and now.