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The Supreme Court came to the decision on Monday to continue allowing public prayer prior to its Greece, New York town board meetings.
In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that prayer is constitutional despite being primarily Christian-based, as long as they attempt to include all religious backgrounds. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a supporter of the ruling, stated the majority opinion.
"These ceremonial prayers strive for the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance and devotion," Justice Kennedy wrote. "Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith," according to The Wall Street Journal .
Justice Elena Kagan disagreed, stating that it is indeed unconstitutional since the meeting prayers are factious in nature.
One of the New York federal appeals courts previously ruled that the 11 years of Christian-based prayer was unconstitutional after two Greece, New York residents argued that it wasn’t fair. As a result, in 2008 four of the meetings that year were opened by non-Christians. However in 2009, the meetings were once again opened by Christian clergymen.
A town employee each month selected clerics or lay people by using a local published guide of churches. The guide did not include non-Christian denominations, however. The appeals court found that religious institutions in the town of just under 100,000 people are primarily Christian, and even Galloway and Stephens testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there, according to The Huffington Post .
Despite this, the court ruled that the prayer practice did not discriminate against non-Christians since it did not discredit other faiths.
Kennedy also remarked that the government should not restrict or endorse any religion.