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Dionne on Public Prayer Case

In this morning's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne does a great job parsing the issues in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court's decision on prayer at the start of town hall meetings. Dionne notes something that has largely been missed in other commentaries on the court's decision, namely, it is an odd type of conservative opinion that thinks denominational prayers are constitutional because they are merely ceremonial. Dionne thinks Justice Kagan, on this point and other, has the better of the argument in her dissent. He writes: 

And in insisting on the importance of bringing in minority religious voices, you might say that Kagan took faith more seriously than did Kennedy. Religious expressions can never be merely ceremonial, she wrote, because they are "statements of profound belief and deep meaning.” Yes, they are.

For many years now, this has disturbed me: Conservatives who want to defend prayer in public and civic settings tend to find such prayers only pass constitutional muster when we gut them of their religious significance. That is crazy. Dionne is right: Better to insist on recognizing the pluralism of religious beliefs and let everybody have their chance at the lectern turned pulpit at a town hall meeting.   

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August 15-28, 2014

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