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Cleveland Chapter Meeting: Is Government Ceremonial Prayer Constitutional?

Our April Cleveland chapter meeting will feature a talk by CFINO favorite (and member) - theoretical physicist at CWRU and outspoken secular humanist Mano Singham!

This time around, Mano's presentation will center on an upcoming decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (Town of Greece vs. Galloway) which may have far-reaching consequences concerning the government's use of ceremonial religious language. His talk is appropriately titled "Is Government Ceremonial Prayer Constitutional?"

In Mano's own words:

Some religious people like to have symbolic gestures of religion in public life, and things such as crosses in public parks, Ten Commandment monuments in courthouses, introducing God into currency and the Pledge of Allegiance, displaying crèches at Christmas, and starting meetings of state, local, and federal government legislative sessions with prayers are quite common. 

But are these things constitutional? Legal battles over them have been quite high profile, with those opposed to them arguing that such actions violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, while those supporting them saying that to disallow them is to declare war on religion and violate the Free Exercise of religion clause. The US Supreme Court has been wary of taking an unequivocal stand on these issues, preferring to find ways to rule narrowly, with some actions being deemed acceptable and others not. 

As a result, we now have a confusing hodgepodge of rules governing what displays of religion are acceptable and what are not. The latest skirmish involves the city of Greece in upstate New York whose practice of starting their city council meetings with a prayer was challenged by two women, one a Jew and the other an atheist. The women won their case in the District Court and then the Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Oral arguments took place in November 2013 with the ruling expected in spring or summer. 

This case presents several features of interest about the acceptable role of religion in public life and this talk will examine them.

As usual, light refreshments will be served. See you there! :)

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  • Mark T.

    Lower turnout than expected for Mano, but he was fabulous as usual! We'll have to wait for a few months to see how the Supreme Court decides on this case.

    April 12, 2014

  • laura s.

    I couldn't go to the Dawkins/Kraus show on Mon. I would have been miserable with all that rain & backed out a couple wks ago. The young man I met a month ago told me he "met his hero." I've finally been able to make someone truly happy with my interests. He is now going to join our group. His name is Jon Kash. He got autographs & pics with both. YEAH !!

    April 9, 2014

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