The U.S. Supreme Court last week passed up the chance to decide whether opening up a public meeting with a sectarian prayer, usually invoking the name of Jesus — a practice carried out in broad swaths of Red State America — is constitutional.
Every business day, thousands of government bodies at all levels begin sessions with prayers. Those prayers are supposed to be “non-sectarian” — they are supposed to appeal to a Supreme Being without reference to religion. But what if a prayer delivered at the start of a government meeting makes a specific reference to a particular religion, for example, using the name of Jesus?
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative U.S. appeals courts in the country, has ruled such specific references are unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week left that ruling in place, but whether the appeals court ruling will have an effect on the government meetings across the country opened with Christian prayers remains to be seen.
The high court could always take on the dispute in some future case. But for the moment the appeals court ruling is the law in the Fourth Circuit: North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia…
And local bible-thumpers will continue to violate the law same as it ever was. You expected different?
As I am wont to say within this context, Separation of church and state – in the United States – is only observed when it comes to paying taxes.