If conservatives were honest, they would call this "big government." No danger of that.
Writing for the 5-4 majority, the congenitally wrong Anthony Kennedy wrote "Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable. Legislative bodies do not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate." The New York Times' Adam Liptak reports
In a major decision on the role of religion in government, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Constitution allows town boards to start their sessions with sectarian prayers. The ruling, by a 5-to-4 vote, divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, and their combative opinions reflected very different views of the role of faith in public life, in contemporary society and in the founding of the Republic.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that a town in upstate New York had not violated the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian and who sometimes used distinctly sectarian language. The prayers were ceremonial, Justice Kennedy wrote, and served to signal the solemnity of the occasion.
The ruling cleared the way for sectarian prayers before meetings of local governments around the nation with only the lightest judicial supervision.
This is among what Kennedy would have us believe is ceremonial. According to Liptak
Town officials in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, said members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, however, almost all of the chaplains were Christian. Some prayers were explicitly sectarian, with references, for instance, to “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Here is a clue, offered freely to Justice Kennedy, that "the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross" is explicitly sectarian: "Christian" is derived from "Jesus Christ," not from "United States of America." The religion- if that word doesn't offend the Justice- is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, reputed to have said "nobody comes to the Father except through me" and "I and the Father are one." In its decision, overturned by the Supreme Court, issued two years ago, Judge Calabresi of the US Court of Appeals for the Second District wrote
A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language. Roughly two-thirds contained references to "Jesus Christ," "Jesus," "Your Son," or the "Holy Spirit." Within this subset, almost all concluded with a statement that the prayer had been given in Jesus Christ's name. Typically, prayer-givers stated something like, "In Jesus's name we pray," or "We ask this in Christ's name." Some prayer-givers elaborated further, describing Christ as "our Savior," "God's only son," "the Lord," or part of the Holy Trinity. One prayer, for example, was given "in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever." Other prayers, including ones not expressly made in Christ's name, spoke of "the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives," and celebrated Christ's birth and resurrection.
The Obama administration came down forcefully on the town's side - most notably because both houses of Congress have opened with prayers since 1789. The House and Senate have had chaplains on staff since 1789. But the prayers delivered these days are far less sectarian than those heard in churches, temples and synagogues.
Or at least that was the reason the reporter presumably ferreted out from the Administration. But given that the prayers before Congress are largely secular, and the occasion of a public meeting of a municipal governing body is a qualitatively different gathering, the abject fear of a guy who has been stung by accusations of being a Muslim probably was more critical. The President who fancies himself a military commander would be better off recalling his earlier role as a constitutional law professor, and the founders' own fear of state establishment of religion.