That evil Muslim atheist Obama is supporting the practice of saying Christian prayers at the beginning of legislative sessions by local elected boards. They’ve filed a brief in a Supreme Court case challenging such prayers saying that the court should allow them to continue.
The Obama administration has taken sides in a significant new test case on the separation between church and state, urging the Supreme Court to allow prayers at the beginning of government meetings. The administration lays out its arguments in a newly filed amicus brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case that questions whether the prayer practices at town council meetings of a small town in upstate New York violate the First Amendment. The case could drastically expand the types of legislative prayer practices considered constitutional…
In its brief, the Obama administration does more than just defend the historical practice in Congress of opening daily sessions with prayers. It goes one step further to provide a complete embrace of religious-oriented prayers at government meetings, with one caveat. It’s a significant position for the administration to take given the multitude of policy battles it’s embroiled in over its alleged hostility toward religious rights. But much like its negotiations with members of the religious right over contraceptive coverage, the administration takes pains to accommodate religious beliefs and assumes a level of good faith simply not supported in the record.
Where, as here, legislative prayers neither proselytize nor denigrate any faith, the inclusion of Christian references alone does not constitute an impermissible advancement or establishment of religion. So long as the goal of the government-backed prayer is not to recruit believers or criticize a given faith then the practice should be supported. Neither federal courts nor legislative bodies are well suited to police the content of such prayers, and this Court has consistently disapproved of government interference in dictating the substance of prayers.
But under O’Connor’s endorsement test, I think the result is quite clear. A reasonable observer, seeing that a local city council begins every single meeting with a Christian prayer, would obviously conclude that they are endorsing Christianity. The fact that the same people claiming this is not an endorsement would lose their minds if a single prayer were offered by a Muslim or a Pastafarian only proves that conclusion to be true.