Supreme Court rules for prayer at open meetings - WNEM TV 5

Supreme Court rules for prayer at open meetings

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A decision made in the nation's capital Monday is reverberating back to Mid-Michigan. The Supreme Court decided limited prayers are allowed at public meetings.

More than two months ago a Wisconsin-based organization challenged Saginaw's policy of holding a prayer before city council meetings. That tradition is safe, at least for now.

Longtime resident Doug Carter sees no need to separate church and state here. 

"We have a right as citizens to choose as citizens whether we want to pray or not," Carter said.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The court ruled city councils don't violate the constitution when they begin sessions with a prayer.

 "Ten cities, municipalities open with a prayer. And many people have challenged that, but with the new decision now, we are able to have opening prayer at our meeting. That's something that City Council has for many years and obviously with this new ruling we continue to do so," Mayor Dennis Browning said.

City Council has been opening its meetings with a prayer for decades, but those opposed to it said it excludes them from the governmental process.

"The concept that you should not exclude, you should include all citizens, you should not embarrass people who are not of a certain religion, you shouldn't be asking people to rise and recite a blessing to something they do not believe in," Annie Laurie Gaylord said.

She is from Freedom from Religion, the organization that challenged the use of prayer at public meetings. Gaylord questions why it's needed.

 "Government officials take an oath of office to uphold an entirely godless secular constitution, whose only reference to religion are exclusionary. So why do City Council members need to pray over variances and liquor licenses?" she asked.

Carter said he believes the current system is working.

"I believe that prayer is a tool that we can use as citizens or members of a society that can build a strong foundation and it changes things," he said.

The Supreme Court's vote was a 5-4 ruling.

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