The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

November 4, 2013

Legislative prayer gets Supreme Court review

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, which asks for God’s protection before every public session, will settle a dispute over prayer in the halls of government.

The case being argued at the court Wednesday involves prayers said at the start of town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. It is the court’s first legislative prayer case since 1983, when the justices said that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment.

But the federal appeals court in New York held that the town crossed a line and violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, and with the replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with Justice Samuel Alito in 2006, the court has been more open to religion in public life. The case may serve as a test of the ongoing viability of the decision in the 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers.

But it also could have an even broader impact, giving conservative justices the opportunity to jettison legal rules that have tended to rein in religious expression in the public square.

That is what some conservative Christian groups, Republican lawmakers and state officials are hoping for, and it’s what liberal interest groups fear. The issue extends well beyond prayer and could affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses.

The Supreme Court “has issued a series of narrowly divided and splintered decisions that have confused the lower courts, baffled the public and incentivized government officials to suppress legitimate religious expression in order to avoid the costs and hazards of litigation,” said 85 members of Congress, almost all Republicans, in a court filing.

Among the examples of confusion cited are the court’s twin rulings on a single day in 2005 that upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol in Austin, yet declared unconstitutional a display in the McCreary County courthouse in Kentucky.

Text Only
AP story section
  • State to reopen Juvenile Home DES MOINES -- A district court judge on Wednesday ordered the state to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home, telling Gov. Terry Branstad he cannot unilaterally change a law approved by the state Legislature. Judge Scott Rosenberg said the home in Toledo was

    February 6, 2014

  • Panel OKs ban on remote abortion pill distribution DES MOINES -- A legislative panel approved a measure Wednesday that would ban the remote distribution of abortion pills, a proposal the bill's sponsor said is intended to delay the procedure and give women more time to change their minds. The subcomm

    February 6, 2014

  • Sioux City gambling group halts local grants SIOUX CITY -- The nonprofit that holds the gambling license for the Argosy Sioux City riverboat casino has voted to temporarily stop sending grants to local charities and government agencies. A legal dispute with the operator of the casino, Penn Nati

    January 15, 2014

  • Davenport pays, apologizes to hearing impaired man DAVENPORT (AP) -- The city of Davenport has issued an unusual apology to a former alderman after a police employee was caught on tape saying that he intentionally knocked softly on the hearing-impaired man's door when responding to a service call. Th

    January 15, 2014

  • Budget Branstad presents budget for next fiscal year DES MOINES -- Gov. Terry Branstad offered a budget proposal Tuesday that includes a tax break for veterans, a tuition freeze for college students and incentives to encourage Internet expansion in rural Iowa, a more modest list of priorities one year

    January 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gov. restores more felons' voting rights IOWA CITY (AP) -- Gov. Terry Branstad restored voting rights to more felons in 2013 than the prior two years combined, but thousands of others remain disenfranchised under a 2011 policy change. Data released by the governor's office to The Associated

    January 15, 2014

  • Man fatally shot at Fla. theater over texting WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) -- A 71-year-old retired police officer accused of shooting a man dead in a Florida movie theater told authorities that "he was in fear of being attacked" during Monday's confrontation. Curtis Reeves is charged with second-de

    January 15, 2014

  • Iowa Senator: Congress must confirm election board DES MOINES -- An Iowa senator asked a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday to confirm appointees to a federal election commission so a decision can be made about whether Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is properly using money for voter-fraud investig

    January 9, 2014

  • School Discipline Gov't: End overly zealous discipline in schools WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Obama administration is urging schools to abandon overly zealous discipline policies that civil rights advocates have long said lead to a school-to-prison pipeline that discriminates against minority students. The wide-ranging

    January 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Governor, lawmakers set modest goals for 2014 DES MOINES -- After reaching bipartisan agreements on several major policy initiatives last year, Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday that he is setting more modest expectations for the 2014 legislative session. Speaking at The Associated Press' annua

    January 9, 2014

AP Video
Facebook
National News