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U.S. Supreme Court rules it's OK to pray in city meetings

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - The U.S. Supreme Court is now saying it's okay to pray. The question was whether or not prayer belongs in meetings like local city councils. But on Monday the court justices ruled expressions of faith are fine to them.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - The U.S. Supreme Court is now saying it's OK to pray. The question was whether or not prayer belongs in meetings like local city councils. But on Monday the court justices ruled expressions of faith are fine to them.

The U.S. Supreme is basically is leaving it up to city councils to decide for themselves. It may surprise you to know, as highly religious as Utahns are, not every city council chooses to have prayer in their meetings. As of Monday, whether you do or you don't, the Supreme Court said that's okay.

"Let's turn our hearts together in prayer," said one man.

You hear it in meetings across America.

"Oh mighty God," said another man.

Now prayer has the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court. Monday in a 5-4 decision, justices ruled that in civic functions like town hall meetings, prayer is appropriate.

“The court said we don't want to get in the business of trying to censor or parse the content of particular prayers to make sure that they are not oversectarian,” said Prof. Richard W. Garnett, Notre Dame Law School.

The ruling stems from a legal battle in Greece, New York where a Jewish woman was offended by Christian prayers offered at city council meetings. But justices stated that people "can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith".

"I think it helps the council," said Mayor Len Arave, North Salt Lake.

Mayor Len Arave said in North Salt Lake, prayer at city council meetings is a tradition.

"To ask for wisdom, it's really beneficial, I think it's good," said Arave.

But a just few miles away in Salt Lake City, the tradition was abandoned 20 years ago. Salt Lake City Council Vice Chair Luke Garrott tells Reporter Brian Carlson it became more divisive than inclusive.

“Ya, we say the pledge of allegiance and that seems to work for most people and it kind of gets us focused, and common sense, and we've dropped the prayer part as part of our meetings," said Luke Garrott, Salt Lake City Council Vice Chair.

Regardless if cities choose to have prayer included in their civic service, the U.S. Supreme Court supports those that do.

Some people are already questioning what does this mean for things like prayers in schools, or using the word “Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” From what legal experts are saying this ruling is very narrow, it only applies to prayers in government meetings. However, one attorney Carlson talked to Monday, believes it's only a matter of time before someone tries to use this ruling as legal precedent to stretch its meaning to other battles with faith and sensitivity.

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Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @briancarlsontv

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