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Thin skins and prayer

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After the marshal on Monday spoke the traditional “God save the United States and this honorable court,” the Supreme Court ruled that the upstate New York town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of “establishment of religion” by opening its board of supervisors’ meetings with a prayer. This ruling would not scandalize James Madison and other members of the First Congress, which drafted and sent to the states for ratification the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Congress did this after hiring a chaplain.

Three decades have passed since the court last ruled on the matter of prayers during government meetings. In 1983, the court held:

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