To pray or not to pray at public meetings

(Bedford) Times-Mail

The enduring issue of separation of church and state returned yet again to the nation’s capital recently as the Supreme Court considered whether municipal governments violate the Constitution by opening their sessions with prayer.

The most recent case focuses on a town board meeting in which a pastor’s invocation concludes with “… we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy son and our savior.”

Two women, offended by the prayer, contend the ritual is not appropriate for government meetings.

According to the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The complainants, one an atheist and the other Jewish, believe too much attention and respect are afforded to Christians.

In 1983, the court ruled in a Nebraska case that as long as prayers do not proselytize, advance or denigrate any one religion, they are constitutional. Chief Justice Warren Burger ruled prayers had become “part of the fabric of our society.”

Regardless of their decision, a modest display of tolerance — from all involved — would be enthusiastically endorsed.

Distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to