The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (May 5, 2014) prayers that open town council meetings do not violate the Constitution -- even if they routinely stress Christianity -- the One News Now website reports.
The court said in a critical and close 5-4 decision that the content of the prayers is not significant as long as officials make a good-faith effort at inclusion.
The ruling was a victory for the town of Greece, New York, outside of Rochester. A federal appeals court had ruled previously that Greece violated the Constitution by opening meetings with prayers that stressed Christianity.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy -- writing for the majority -- said the prayers are ceremonial and in keeping with the nation's traditions. "The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers," Kennedy said.