Last week, I wrote about Attorney General Marty Jackley’s decision to back a defense of legislative prayer in the U.S. Supreme Court.
He and 27 other state attorneys general did this after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the prayer practice of a town called Greece, N.Y.
The town’s council meetings were opened by prayers, lead by a rotating stable of volunteer clergy members. Sioux Falls, Rapid City and South Dakota’s state legislature use a similar rotating scheme to pick the prayer-givers.
The appeals court ruled that a more stringent test ought to be used to ensure the prayers didn’t endorse a particular religion.
Jackley and his fellow prayer supporters want the high court to re-affirm the 1983 ruling of Marsh vs. Chambers, which set a precedent that legislative prayer is okay so long as it amounts to prayer and not preaching.
The Marsh decision says that the practice of asking for divine guidance is a longstanding tradition that recognizes the religiosity of the majority of the U.S.
Not everyone feels that way. Some people expect religion to stay as far away from government as possible.
Oddly enough, some of them broadcast an “Ask an Atheist” radio program and podcast from a Sioux Falls church on the day my story ran.
They had some opinions about legislative prayer. Here’s Sam Mulvey, co-host of the show, comparing the relative danger of “In God We Trust” on money to the legislative prayer:
“Opening the legislative session with prayers is, I think, a much more invasive, much more dangerous thing than printing four words on a piece of paper you never look at except for the numbers,”
In any event, this morning I got a copy of the Jackley-endorsed Amicus brief. If you’re interested in parsing the argument further, here you go.