Controversy over prayer at government meetings

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Updated: Thu, 07 Nov 2013 06:20:14 CST

Will prayer at public meetings be banned? Perhaps even deemed unconstitutional?

It's an issue that's made its way to the U-S Supreme Court.

Two women, one Jewish, one Atheist, from upstate New York say their town is endorsing the Christian faith during prayers at town meetings.

We've seen a very similar case before: Marsh V. Chambers. In 1983 the Supreme Court ruled that prayer in our state legislature is constitutional.

Before Kearney City Council starts each meeting they pause for either a moment of silence, or if a clergyman is attending, they pray.

"I think it's a nice tradition. It's a nice way to focus yourself and realize that the actions you're going to take have consequences and are important." Said Randy Buschkoetter, Vice President of Kearney City Council.

In recent months Buschkoetter says prayer has been few and far between.

The area Ministerial Association was organizing which church would lead the prayer at each meeting, but they've recently disbanded.

"I would say it's predominantly Christian, but I would say Kearney is predominantly Christian." Said Buschkoetter.

He says if there were leaders of other faiths in the area, they would be more than welcome to lead prayer as well.

Even the Supreme Court starts meetings with something similar to a prayer.

"It begins with someone saying 'God save the United States and this honorable court.' Is that a prayer?" Said Father Michael Houlihan of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Hastings.

Father Houlihan says the government would be infringing on freedom of speech and religion.

"I'd like to see it stated that the state really can't interfere in how people pray. If they're going to allow the prayer, they shouldn't set limits on it." Said Father Houlihan.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices seem willing to let government-led prayer continue without drawing up new rules, based on not much more than the fact that it's been done since the nation's founding.

Whose endorsement carries more weight when it comes to the Governor's race?
  
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