Religion and Prayer in the Florida Legislature
MGRABER at GVPT.UMD.EDU
Sat Mar 11 10:02:40 PST 2000
I think Professor Duncan hits the button on the head when he correctly notes that there is no such thing as a non-sectarian prayer. The problem is that the Supreme Court, erroneously in both of our opinions, disagrees, seemingly indicating that prayer in certain restricted settings (MARSH) is okay if non-sectarian. We simply disagree on the consequence of this insight. Professor Duncan claims with some reason that if the justices are allowing prayer, and there is no such thing as a non-sectarian prayer, than sectarian prayers must be allowed in certain narrowly defined instances (where the state has taken steps not to endorse the content of any particular prayer). My position, I hope with some reason, is that if only a non-sectarian prayer is allowed, and no such animal exists, then the state cannot sponsor prayer. Offense in an emotional sense has nothing to do with this issue. Whether the state can permit a clergy person to lead a legislature in prayer depends on whether that is an establishment, not on how many people are offended. Good statist that I am, I think that state legislature could sponsor a speech by the leading proponent of abortion or the leading opponent of abortion, no matter what offense is caused.
Mark A. Graber
mgraber at gvpt.umd.edu
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