You can tell I’ve been busy because I failed to notice this last month:
Prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing, serves that legitimate function. If the course and practice over time shows that the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion, many present may consider the prayer to fall short of the desire to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort. That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court. — Greece v Galloway
Basically the Supremes were given the chance to say that sectarian prayer (“we acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross”), or even prayer in general (“blah blah blah God blah blah”), is out of place in government contexts since some of the salient citizens could obviously feel excluded; and they did something close to the opposite, on the amusing and infuriating assumption that this stuff “unites” us in our “common effort”.
Justice Kagan gets it just right in this bit of dissent:
Contrary to the majority’s apparent view, such sectarian prayers are not “part of our expressive idiom” or “part of our heritage and tradition,” assuming the word “our” refers to all Americans.
but also disappointingly does exactly the same thing herself in writing
None of this means that Greece’s town hall must be religion- or prayer-free. “[W]e are a religious people,” Marsh observed.
Not assuming that the word “we” refers to all Americans, eh, Justice Kagan? Hem hem!
The conservative Justices are saying, as conservative Justices tend to, “people like us have no problem with this, and people who aren’t like us don’t really matter much.”
And that’s always bad.
But it’s sad that, as ScotusBlog notes, even the dissenters seem to assume that government prayer is just fine, and the only thing that might make anyone feel unacceptably excluded is if it’s the wrong kind of prayer.