Why I believe legislative prayer is constitutional expression of religious freedom
By Senator Marco Rubio
November 5, 2013
Wednesday morning, I plan to attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court of the United States for the case of Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway.
There, I’ll observe what will be an important moment in our country’s long tradition of protecting religious liberty.
The Town of Greece is the latest party to be thrust into the middle of our country’s debate over the right to public religious expression, and all it did to deserve this was allow prayer before sessions of its town council.
The tradition of praying before meetings of governing or legislative bodies is common all across our country. In fact, it has been meaningful to me in my own career as a public servant.
In the Florida State House, I often took time with my fellow state representatives to pray for the wisdom and discernment to properly serve our constituents. Now, every morning before debate commences in the U.S. Senate, we pause for prayer and reflection.
Even the Supreme Court, which is now considering this case, has long begun every session with the proclamation, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court!” These are just some examples of how religious freedom, including in the public square, is one of the things that unites us as a “nation under God.”
As defenders of religious freedom, many of us were concerned by the lower court’s ruling in the case of the Town of Greece.
The opportunity to deliver a prayer or reflection before the town council in Greece is open to individuals of all faiths, and those of none at all.
Prayers have been said by members of various Christian denominations, the Jewish faith and a Wiccan. Nevertheless, because the town is overwhelmingly Christian, so are a large number of prayers.
In spite of this obvious fairness to people of all beliefs, including atheists, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the town had violated the First Amendment prohibiting the establishment of religion.
I found this ruling to be deeply unsettling, and the Supreme Court has rightfully agreed to hear the appeal. The decision has implications far beyond the legal realm, impacting American life, culture and government.
I believe that part of what distinguishes America from the rest of the world is that we do not feel threatened by each other’s faiths.
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