By Brian Fields
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia left no doubt about where he stood on the constitutional principle of church-state separation.
“To tell you the truth, there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition,” Scalia said a little over one month before he passed away Feb. 13 at the age of 79. “Where did that come from? To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”
The Cleveland County, N.C., Board of Education voted recently to end its practice of opening meetings with a moment of silence in favor of allowing official invocations.
Last year, the board voted 8-2 to continue its previous policy of beginning meetings with a moment of silence. But some local agitators were upset by that decision and called for more vocal forms of religion to be injected into the meetings.
The Brevard County, Fla., Board of County Commissioners’ policy of excluding nontheists from offering pre-meeting invocations is unconstitutional, several civil liberties groups say in a federal lawsuit.
Canada’s highest court has ruled that town councils may not open meetings with sectarian prayer.
The ruling ends an eight-year legal battle over the prayer practice of the town of Saguenay in Quebec. The town opens its council meetings with Catholic prayer and openly displays a crucifix in its meeting hall. (The justices did not rule on the subject of the crucifix and limited themselves instead to the matter of prayer.)
The justices ruled that Canadian society has developed a “concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs.”
A North Carolina county has resumed its policy of inviting clergy from mostly Christian denominations to deliver sectarian prayers before its board meetings.
In yet another instance of fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Greece v. Galloway, U.S. District Court Judge James A. Beaty Jr. recently lifted an injunction that had barred Forsyth County from opening its meetings with Christian prayers.
An Americans United chapter leader recently gave the first-ever secular invocation before a meeting of the El Paso, Texas, City Council.
David Marcus, president of AU’s El Paso Chapter, offered a message of inclusion before the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.
“We come together today in a spirit of cooperation and compromise,” he said, noting that the border city of more than 670,000 people is made up of residents with different beliefs and that each individual’s feelings are deeply important.
The Huntsville, Ala., City Council invited a Wiccan to deliver its opening invocation last week. And guess what? The city is still standing.
That’s right – no tornadoes, earthquakes, meteors or plagues of locusts have descended upon the community. Everybody got through it.
The Town Board of Greece, N.Y., recently issued its formal policy on pre-meeting prayers, leading to a combination of confusion and backlash.
Five months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that while communities are free to open their meetings with predominantly Christian prayers, they may not exclude other points of view. Since that decision in Greece v. Galloway was handed down in May, one local resident who is an atheist has offered a pre-meeting message. But that was before the advent of the formal policy, which was released on August 19.
Just over two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Greece, N.Y., Town Board may open its meetings with predominantly Christian prayers, an atheist gave a secular invocation before one of the town’s meetings – with no major backlash.
Before the start of a July 15 session, local resident Dan Courtney offered a thoughtful invocation.