Firstly, I would like to take a

March 15, 2019 General Studies

Firstly, whether SCOTUS should specifically restrict Christian prayer at the town council meetings, the answer is a clear no. A governmental body cannot restrict speech from only one particular religious group, as that would be discriminatory.

Second, to the larger question of whether SCOTUS should restrict prayer in general at the town council meetings. This is more complicated, but I believe the answer is yes, official public public prayer should be restricted in governmental meetings. There are people with decent reasons arguing that prayer should be allowed in legislative sessions, but I would like to take a look at those basic arguments and offer my own response.

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As long as people of any and every faith are allowed to have a turn leading the prayer, no one will experience discrimination.

This is probably the single best argument for preserving official prayer in government meetings, but it is fairly weak as it basically suggests that we should keep public prayer in this context because it doesn’t do any obvious harm. Note that this does not make the case that public prayer in a legislative context serves a valuable purpose, but simply argues that it doesn’t do much (or any) harm.

I would suggest that, despite this suggestion, harm may still be done with the inclusion of an official time of prayer in governmental meetings. Consider that throughout the US, in most localities, the majority of residents who identify with any faith identify as Christians. Now consider what takes place when, in a town council meeting, it is a Christian’s turn to lead prayer. Those in attendance who are not Christians and who do not feel comfortable joining in might stand out with their non-participation. This alerts those on the council to the person’s faith or lack thereof and could possibly lead to bias concerning the person’s petition to the council.

Alternatively, simply consider the fact that it makes little sense for a person who wants to go to a town meeting to request a new speed bump on their street to be required to sit through an official time of prayer.
The founders included prayer in legislative sessions, so they apparently did not see a conflict with the first amendment.


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