Alaska Borough Assembly Gets It Right on Legislative Prayer

  • October 31, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) gen­er­ally sanc­tions sec­tar­ian prayers before

alaska courthouse

meet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies except for the most egre­gious cir­cum­stances. The opinion, however, does not require local or state legislatures to have opening prayers.

Rather, that decision is solely in a legislative body’s discretion. On October 20th the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska Assembly made the right call on this issue by voting down 5-2 an ordinance that would have added opening prayers to regular meeting agendas.

ADL agrees with the Assembly’s decision because such opening prayers convey an exclusionary message – particularly to religious minorities – at meetings of local government bodies where ordinary citizens of diverse faiths or no faith seek recourse from their public officials.

If the dissenters on the Assembly want to provide a prayer opportunity at public meetings, the most appropriate and inclusive practice is a moment of silence.  It would allow all Assembly members and constituents who want to pray to do so silently without dividing the community along religious lines.