The U.S. Supreme Court struck another blow against the long-standing divide between faith and government last month when the court ruled by a narrow vote that the Constitution allows for prayer in town meetings.
A 1983 decision allowed prayers at the start of legislative sessions, but opposing sides in last month’s decision differed on whether town board meetings were significantly different from legislative sessions.
In support of the decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said prayer in both settings were “meant to lend gravity to the occasion and reflect values long part of the nation’s heritage,” according to a recent New York Times article.
But even dissenters were not strictly opposed to prayer in public meetings.
The New York Times article quotes Justice Elena Kagan as saying that the practices of the town in upstate New York that sparked the case could not be reconciled with First Amendment rights that every citizen, regardless of religion, has an equal share in government. But Justice Kagan went on to say that she did not propose banning prayer, only requiring officials to ensure that prayers are inclusive of different faiths.
This aligns with Signature HealthCARE’s interfaith approach to spirituality,
not only in its facilities and offices, but also in the public sphere. Signature has long held or participated in faith-oriented public events, often involving government officials, including the National Day of Prayer celebrations held each May at its health care centers and the company’s home office in Louisville.
“We have a model that is not watered down, but not proselytizing either, in the sense that we meet people at the point of their need,” said Dianne Timmering, Vice President of Spirituality and Legislative Affairs for Signature. “This is a true celebration, and really a validation of our interfaith model and adds credibility to our design as it relates to the First Amendment as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Prayer at town meetings, not based on religious profile but respecting religious preference, is powerful. This could bring prayer back into the schools based on an interfaith model. This is very exciting.”
Delores Patrick, Chaplain/Director of Spirituality for Laurelwood Care Center, in Elkton, Md., noted that both the city’s mayor and a city commissioner spoke during the center’s National Day of Prayer ceremony this year.
Patrick also said she favors the court’s decision.
“I embrace this ruling as a turn toward the intersection that our country was founded upon, inviting the sovereignty and wisdom of God into our meetings,” she said. “It’s a great start, moving us, as a country, toward the principles that made these United States great. In God, we do trust.”