HEAD: Supreme Court Seeks Help from Supreme Power

November 7, 2013 by  


By Nidah Chatriwala

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“Volunteer legislative chaplain Donna Kafer (left, with Naomi Colbert) says prayer helps calm lawmakers. “

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court takes up the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, regarding opening town council meetings with a prayer violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause because the content of the prayers give the impression that the government endorses Christianity.

Many states have been keeping close tabs on the issue and some government leaders have even joined other state legislatures releasing their views on the issue through briefs.

Arizona state legislature, Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, filed a legal brief in the case.

“The practice is not an ancient tradition that blindly presumes religious uniformity,” their brief states. “From the Founding, legislative prayer has provided shared moments of solemnization by individuals of different faiths.”

In Arizona, beginning government meetings with prayer has become a tradition followed for over 100 years.

“It’s part of our history and decorum,” said Donna Kafer, who has served as the state’s volunteer legislative chaplain for 15 years, and according to azcentral.com, she said she believes the daily prayer has a calming effect on lawmakers. “It sets the tone for what they’re there to do.”

Lawmakers in Arizona take turns leading the prayer welcoming local Jewish, Native American and Muslim leaders.

“Our Legislature has a very sectarian prayer regularly,” activist Seráh Blain said. According to azcentral.com, she said she believes it gives non-Christian Arizonans the feeling that they have no legislative representation.

“While everybody ought to have the freedom to express their religion, there should not be the perception that the government is endorsing one particular religion to the exclusion of others,” Blain added.

According to the Miami Herald, the Obama administration has joined conservative states and federal lawmakers in urging the Supreme Court to allow politicians to say prayers during government meetings.

The high court’s decision will resonate through all levels of government.

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