Supreme Court To Consider Issue Of Prayer Before Public Meetings

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UPDATED: Monday May 20, 2013 6:37 PM

A prayer before a government meeting has been tradition in America for more than two centuries.

"I liked it because we still have some tense moments, and I thought it was a great way to start a meeting," said Dennis Stapleton, a member of the Delaware County Council.

Stapleton says when he was president of the council last year, he started each of the meetings with a prayer.

"I thought it was just a proper way to ask the Lord’s blessings on the hearings," said Stapleton.

But the Supreme Court may have a different take.

This fall, justices will consider whether prayers can be offered at government meetings.

The case they'll hear involves a Greece, New York, town council and whether it violated the Establishment Clause by repeatedly using Christian clergy.

"It begs the question, why prayers before legislative meetings at all?" said Gary Daniels of the Ohio ACLU. "No matter whose faith they represent, no matter how secular they are, what is the purpose of a prayer before a public meeting?"

Stapleton says he stopped the practice, but only after it became too difficult to prepare the prayer on his own.

"Prior to a meeting, you have three or four issues you're dealing with and your mind is somewhere else, and I didn't want to not do it justice," said Stapleton.

Daniels says local governments would be smart to eliminate all prayer, to avoid the very questions being raised now before the Supreme Court.

"That isn't to say people can't pray, they always will," said Daniels. "Whether the government should be in the middle of deciding these types of things, that's the much larger issue."

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