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