Is Prayer At Town Meetings Constitutional?

Is Prayer At Town Meetings Constitutional?

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Mobile City and county council meetings have always begun with prayer.

Two New York state women, one an atheist and another Jewish, say they feel excluded when their town hall meetings begin with predominantly Christian prayers. But people here in Mobile don’t necessarily sympathize.

“I believe that’s our God-given right to do so, if the atheists don’t want to pray, they don’t have to pray,” says Ladon Hamilton.

“My personal opinion is that it’s primarily a Christian-Judeo country and we are the majority and our votes have voted so far that it’s constitutional,” says Leslie Buckley.

“If the country was founded on those values, then we ought to definitely invoke the blessings of our founding fathers and the blessings of God,” says Everett Miller.

“If you’re uncomfortable with that, then just dismiss yourself from it,” says Amy Jones.

And while most of the prayers offered at council meetings tend to be Christian based, commissioner Connie Hudson says exclusion of other religions is not intended.

“We’re very inclusive, we are very tolerant and I think that we’ve had, like I said, a lot of denominations represented,” says Hudson.

Rabbi Donald Kunstadt understands feeling excluded and tries to avoid it when he is asked to offer prayer at meetings.

“And of course anyone who would be Buddhist, or Hindu or Muslim, Jain, whatever religion, if they’re sitting through that they would feel that they’re not really a part of that prayer. Still, there’s awkwardness to it and it is problematic,” says Kunstadt.

First Amendment rights guarantee a separation of Church and State, and some feel a prayer at government meetings is an endorsement of one religion. No matter the Supreme Court ruling, it will continue to be one of the most hotly contested issues in America.

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