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8 August 2014 at 4:28:14 PM
I like the expression that the answer to bad speech is more speech. Basically, this principle exists with regard to religious statues, prayers, giveaways, ie, if a govenment entity wants to put up, say, a 10 commmandments monument, it must also accomodate those of different religions or non-religious entities.
First,the Supreme Court ruled that prayers are acceptable at government meetings if a government entity chooses to do them. The Town of Greece New York vs Galloway et al case is speaking specifically about instances, not where elected officials are doing an invocation but where the community comes in to stand before the elected officials and talk. Some interesting points in this decision. The invocation is deemed as "legislative prayer".
"Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, prosleytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely estalish a constitutional violation. ... so long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing..both the setting in which the prayer arises and the audience to whom it is directed shows that the town is not coercing its citizens to engage in an religous observance. The prayer opportunity is evaluated against the backdrop of a historical practice showing that prayer ahs become part of the Nation's heritage and tradition. It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition and understands that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens. Furthermore, the principal audience for these invocations is not the public, but the lawmakers themselves. And those lawmakers did not direct the public to participate, single out dissidents for opprobium, or indicate that their decisions might be influenced by a persons acquiesence in the prayer opportunity. Respondents claim that the prayers gave them offense but offense does not equate to coercion. ... the record here does not suggest that citizens are dissuaded from leaving the meeting room during the prayer, arriving late or making a later protest. That the prayer in Greece is delivered during the opening ceremonial portion of the town's meeting, not the policymaking portion, also suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and their institutions, not to exclude or coerce nonbelievers..... In the 1850's the judiciary committee in both the House and Senate reevaluated the practice of official chaplaincies after receiving petitions to abolish the office. The committees concluded that the office posed no threat of an establishment because lawmakers were not compelled to attend the daily prayer. .. no faith was excluded by law nor any favored... the Court (did not) imply the rule that prayer violates the Establishment Clause any time it is given in the name of a figure deified by only one faith or creed.. To the contrary, the Court instructed that the "content of the prayer is not of concern to judges" provided there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proslytize or advance any one or to disparagge any other, faith or belief. ... It would be but a few steps removed from that prohibition for legislatures to require chaplains to redact the religious content from their message in order to make it acceptable for the public sphere...Because it is unlikely that prayer will be inclusive beyond dispute, it would be unwise to adopt what respondents think is the next best option; permitting those reilgious words and only those words, that are acceptable to the majority, even if they will exclude some... The First Amendment is not a majority rule and government may not seek to define permissible categories of religious speech. Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian.... Prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing serves that legitimate function."
This is why you now see both believers and unbelievers, but all citizens, going before government and offering up invocations.
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