HEAD: Supreme Court Seeks Help from Supreme Power
By Nidah Chatriwala
â€œVolunteer legislative chaplain Donna Kafer (left, with Naomi Colbert) says prayer helps calm lawmakers. â€œ
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court takes up the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, regarding opening town council meetings with a prayer violates the First Amendmentâ€™s Establishment Clause because the content of the prayers give the impression that the government endorses Christianity.
Many states have been keeping close tabs on the issue and some government leaders have even joined other state legislatures releasing their views on the issue through briefs.
Arizona state legislature, Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, filed a legal brief in the case.
â€œThe practice is not an ancient tradition that blindly presumes religious uniformity,â€ their brief states. â€œFrom the Founding, legislative prayer has provided shared moments of solemnization by individuals of different faiths.â€
In Arizona, beginning government meetings with prayer has become a tradition followed for over 100 years.
â€œItâ€™s part of our history and decorum,â€ said Donna Kafer, who has served as the stateâ€™s volunteer legislative chaplain for 15 years, and according to azcentral.com, she said she believes the daily prayer has a calming effect on lawmakers. â€œIt sets the tone for what theyâ€™re there to do.â€
Lawmakers in Arizona take turns leading the prayer welcoming local Jewish, Native American and Muslim leaders.
â€œOur Legislature has a very sectarian prayer regularly,â€ activist SerÃ¡h Blain said. According to azcentral.com, she said she believes it gives non-Christian Arizonans the feeling that they have no legislative representation.
â€œWhile everybody ought to have the freedom to express their religion, there should not be the perception that the government is endorsing one particular religion to the exclusion of others,â€ Blain added.
According to the Miami Herald, the Obama administration has joined conservative states and federal lawmakers in urging the Supreme Court to allow politicians to say prayers during government meetings.
The high courtâ€™s decision will resonate through all levels of government.