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  • A CASE BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT CHALLENGES SOLELY CHRISTIAN PRAYERS AT PUBLIC, GOVERNMENT MEETINGS. SHOULD PRAYERS OF MULTIPLE RELIGIONS BE WELCOMED AT PUBLIC MEETINGS?

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  • Montgomery residents, professor react to Supreme Court prayer case

Montgomery residents, professor react to Supreme Court prayer case

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A case about public prayer at a New York town's board meeting has reached the nation's highest court.

This comes after two local women, brought a suit against Greece, New York officials over invocations at monthly public sessions on government.

The women, one of who is an atheist and other, Jewish, say the prayers have become more Christian over the years.

A divided Supreme Court debated today whether public prayer should be allowed during civic meetings.

"I don't think that one religion should be left out," says Warren Colter from Titus, Alabama.

"I don't think prayer hurts anybody as long as people can pray to whoever they want," adds Pat Rutland.

There are some who believe prayer in public government meetings is ok as long as different religions are recognized.

And then there are some who don't.

"There's no reason for it. And besides, faith is a personal thing," says Jean Fuchs.

The Supreme Court now has a decision to make when it comes to prayer in government meetings.

Law professor Andy Olree says they already made the decision once.

"The Supreme Court has already said in a case from 1983 which is their leading precedent on this that those prayers are often going to be deemed permissible."

The 1983 Marsh v. Chambers Supreme Court opinion stated it was ok for the Nebraska State legislature to hire a chaplain to perform Christian prayers before meetings, thus making Christian prayers before other government meetings allowed.

But now, the question is whether that means governments are endorsing certain religions over others.

Olree says the court must better clarify the Marsh v. Chambers opinion or get rid of it in the Greece, New York opinion.

"Well, one option of course is to overrule Marsh v. Chambers and say what makes everything so divisive is that the legislatures are getting in the business of prayer to start with."

Olree says the decision itself could encroach on free speech rights especially if the court started dictating the types of prayers allowed.

"To see whether you're praying in Jesus' name or how many times somebody has prayed in Jesus' name. That whole enterprise is problematic. Getting the courts involved is problematic."

Olree says the original Marsh opinion was formed after the Supreme Court took cues from history.

He says because the founding fathers hired chaplains to pray before the first meetings of Congress, the court felt it was ok to allow that in present day.

Alabamians may remember a recent controversy when the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint against the Alabama Public Service Commission after it allowed a four minute prayer before a meeting that condemned gay marriage and abortion.

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