GREEN BAY – The United States Supreme Court has ruled again that it’s okay to start a government meeting with a prayer.
Before the Brown County Board conducts its business, Supervisor Bernie Erickson and his colleagues say they reflect on a variety of concerns.
“Safe keeping and safety of disaster victims, so forth and so on,” said Erickson. “Anybody that’s opposed to something of that nature really has no feelings for anything.”
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, disagrees.
“We think government officials need to get off their knees and get to work. And we call this the ‘nothing fails like prayer’ word because nothing fails like prayer,” said Gaylor.
Two years ago, Freedom From Religion asked the Brown County Board to stop praying at its meetings. The board took no formal action on the issue.
Erickson supported that decision and backs the Supreme Court now.
“It says right on our currency, In God We Trust, so in all rights, I think the Supreme Court did the right thing because our country was founded on this principle,” he said.
Gaylor has another view about the high court’s ruling.
“Tremendously disappointed, dismayed, not totally surprised,” she said.
In a 5-4 vote, the court determined that praying before a meeting does not violate the constitution even if the prayers routinely stress Christianity. The court ruled that the content of the prayers is not significant as long as they do not belittle or attempt to convert non-Christians.
The case started in the town of Greece, New York.
The decision relied on another Supreme Court case from 1983. In that case, the court ruled the Nebraska Legislature could open with a prayer. The court said prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment.
The Obama administration had previously said it supports beginning a government meeting with a prayer.