Public prayer: Supreme Court's ruling not likely to change NH ways
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling last week, upheld prayer at public meetings.
“I have numerous times been part of meetings with moments of silence, mostly to honor someone whose life was lost, such as a town employee or volunteer, or when there has been a major event such as September 11 or the Boston Marathon bombings,” said Sullivan County Manager Jessie Levine, the former Bedford town manager. “I cannot, however, ever recall a prayer or invocation at a public meeting.”
“Generally, my belief is that local government is not a place for politics or prayer,” he said. “Not everyone shares the same beliefs and philosophies, and local government in New Hampshire is designed and intended to be inclusive of the community as a whole. Prayer is a deeply personal function for individuals and I think is best left in that mode.”
“I personally have no objections to prayer at local government meetings, as long as the prayer remains non-denominational so as not to exclude any specific religion,” Hooksett School Board member John Lyscars.
“I wouldn’t think so. Maybe we should pray for a high school solution,” he joked, alluding to an ongoing debate in Hooksett.
Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, said he doesn’t want to see the government undermine the ruling.
Michele Dillon, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, said the constitutional idea of “religious neutrality” remains difficult to put into practice.
“More Americans today are identifying as having no religion — three times as many today are religiously unaffiliated compared to as recently as the late 1990s (an increase from 7 percent to 20 percent),” she said.
“Like any policy decisions made by the governing body, there is a public process for supporting or decrying the decision,” Levine said.
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