The Senate has been led in prayer since the late 18th century, but a pending Supreme Court case may threaten the ability of United States legislative bodies at all levels to conduct prayer. Now, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 33 other senators are filing amicus briefs to the Court, and speaking out in defense of the practice.
In a op-ed for The Christian Post, Rubio argued that Senate prayer respects all faiths, and is a reflection of America’s founding on Judeo-Christian values—a highly contentious point which is far from historically concrete.
“Every day before debate commences, the Senate pauses for prayer and reflection. It is an opportunity for senators to affirm what unites us and those we represent, and to reflect on the profound duty we owe our fellow Americans. As a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values, legislative bodies throughout the country, from the Senate down to local city governments, have made prayer a routine part of their day before getting down to the people's business. Unfortunately, a recent ruling by a federal court in New York threatens to put an end to this,” he wrote.
The ruling Rubio refers to is that of the U.S. Second Court of Appeals against the town of Greece. The court found that by leading legislative sessions with prayer, Greece’s town board violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government-imposed religion. The case will be heard by the Supreme Court, according to Roll Call.
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The ruling explains, “The town’s process for selecting prayer-givers virtually ensured a Christian view-point. Christian clergy delivered each and every one of the prayers for the first nine years of the town’s prayer practice, and nearly all of the prayers thereafter. In the town’s view, the preponderance of Christian clergy was the result of a random selection process. The randomness of the process, however, was limited by the town’s practice of inviting clergy almost exclusively from places of worship located within the town’s borders. The town fails to recognize that its residents may hold religious beliefs that are not represented by a place of worship within the town.”