The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 vote on prayer at government meetings confirms religion continues to be the most divisive of issues in culture today.
The high court’s divided ruling this week was a result of a challenge in Greece, N.Y. The city was sued in 2007 for opening town government meetings with a prayer. It was alleged prayer violated the separation of church and state governed by the Constitution, and the suit maintained prayers offered in this particular town were mostly rooted in Christianity.
The majority opinion of the narrow vote found prayer “has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.” The two caveats outlined in the option were that diversity of religious beliefs be sought out by governments and that no requirements of attendees to participate take place.
The dissenting opinion read, “In this country, when citizens go before the government, they do not go as Christians or Muslims or Jews, but just as Americans. That is what it means to be an equal citizen irrespective of religion.”
It’s a relief to learn that government officials can still bow their heads with a prayer to open their meetings without fear of legal action. In most cases, such as in Ocean City, the prayers are innocuous and have more to do with respect for the diversity of opinions present and strength to remain open-minded than any sort of blanket expression to God or a higher being. In Ocean City, the prayer usually comes first followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
In other cases, such as in Berlin, a specific faith is more clearly represented. Each Berlin Mayor and Council meeting begins with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, which we find appropriate but surely there are others who do not. The good news is nobody is ostracized for not participating in the prayer or even the Pledge of Allegiance at these meetings. It’s their right to not participate and to our knowledge no other religious entity has ever requested the opportunity to lead the prayer.
It was affirming to see the Supreme Court preserved the right of those who do have a belief in a higher being to make a public acknowledgement before getting to government matters, so long as it’s inclusive of all faiths and not forced on anyone. The highest court in the land got this divisive issue right, albeit by the slimmest of possible margins.
The issue was awkwardly handled this week, but the bottom line in Ocean City is a restricted smoking policy for the beach will be in place for the season of 2015. It was disappointing to see the Mayor and Council have to table immediate action on the change, but it was also clear the city was disorganized and not ready … Continue reading
Lower Shore Tilting at Windmills For Southern Maryland, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station is an economic engine like no other. It accounts for $6.6 billion in economic activity, including 41,185 jobs, so it’s small wonder that elected leaders from that region of the state are extremely protective of it, and that includes House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. But at … Continue reading
When dealing with a service that accounts for a heavy financial burden (and loss), it’s the job of government to try and minimize the severity of the problem. That’s what the Ocean City Public Works Department is doing with its proposal to cut the option of paying a dollar for a one-way ride on Coastal Highway. Instead, the department has … Continue reading
Although they may not be the most fascinating meetings, the budget work sessions various governments on the local front are holding this time of year are prime ways to learn about public spending in detail. In Ocean City and Worcester County this week, individual departments presented their planned budgets for the year, explaining why they are asking for the funding … Continue reading
The time has come for Ocean City to make more diligent efforts toward stopping smoking on the beach, but banning it outright is terribly problematic from an enforcement standpoint. There is no reason to pass an ordinance banning smoking on the beach or the Boardwalk in Ocean City because it will be unenforceable for the most part. Sure, … Continue reading
Dear Mother Nature, You sure are a fickle you know what. Let’s take the last week as an example. For the most part, it was quite pleasant with temperatures reaching the upper-60s on Saturday during the annual Irish parade and festival in Ocean City. That was until Sunday evening when temperatures plummeted and rain turned to sleet and then eventually … Continue reading
A solid case was made this week supporting the need for an increase in the allowable taxi fare charged in Ocean City, but the proposed hike under consideration is too much too fast. Currently, and as has been the case since 2010, in Ocean City there is a $3.20 initial fare for customers plus $2.20 per mile after. The operators … Continue reading
This week’s celebration surrounding Berlin’s victory in Budget Travel’s America’s Coolest Small Town poll was funny, charming and special. That makes it appropriate for Berlin, a town that is just that — funny, charming and special. While other words like historic, beautiful and quaint are more often used in advertising and marketing materials, we prefer the other three after a … Continue reading
Responsive elective government was on display in Worcester County this week on two occasions — the County Commissioners reversed an earlier decision by withdrawing opposition to a legislative change allowing Berlin to have its own to-go liquor store, and the Board of Education voted to move the start of the school year to the day after Labor Day for the … Continue reading