On Monday the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (They all seem to be 5-4 decisions these days.) that a New York town was OK in having prayers before their meetings, even if they are pretty much all Christian. To get more detail about that case you should read the AP story that ran on our site.
Monday afternoon I spoke with Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent, because Bremerton is the only local government body I know of that puts prayer on the agenda. That it would appear anywhere in this area might surprise some people, because it wasn’t long ago that a Gallup survey reported our area was the seventh least religious area in the country. That was Kitsap specifically, by the way, not just the entire Seattle area.
Lent was not much familiar with the Supreme Court decision, but in her conversation about why prayer works here she touched on some of the questions the court addressed. One of the problems in the court case was the predominance of Christian prayers. Except for one brief period last decade, prayers or other facsimiles were not heard in the New York town. Lent said in Bremerton an effort is made to spread the task around, to contact different denominations, including non-Christian ones. That’s more than the court decided was necessary.
No other local government that I am aware of opens with prayers. When I covered the Bainbridge Island City Council they didn’t even recite the pledge of allegiance and there was a bit of a dust up when one council member suggested they start. The next election ushered in folks who were not opposed to the pledge and it’s now on the agenda.
This is not to say everyone is thrilled with the prayer in Bremerton, or probably the pledge for that matter. I know several years back I knew of someone who was raising an issue with the council, someone who was as committed to atheism as some are to religion. This person, however, wasn’t interested in letting a refusal to stand for a prayer distract from the main question on this person’s agenda. It’s a case of saving battles for another day, if ever.
Lent said that to her knowledge no one has complained about Bremerton’s regular prayer.