This week in Christian history: Supreme Court upholds prayer at gov't meetings; John Knox returns

Town of Greece Supreme Court decision – May 5, 2014

The Supreme Court building
The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., as photographed on Monday, April 25, 2022. |

This week marks the anniversary of when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York town could have Christian prayers recited before the beginning of official meetings.

Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the five-justice majority opinion concluding that Greece officials could choose Christian ministers to pray before their public meetings. The narrow majority reasoned that the town's prayer practice did not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

Kennedy pointed to the long history of Congress having chaplains give opening prayers before their legislative sessions, including sectarian invocations. 

“Congress continues to permit its appointed and visiting chaplains to express themselves in a religious idiom. It acknowledges our growing diversity not by proscribing sectarian content but by welcoming ministers of many creeds,” wrote Kennedy.

“Government may not mandate a civic religion that stifles any but the most generic reference to the sacred any more than it may prescribe a religious orthodoxy.”

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