Jonathan Whitehead reacts to Supreme Court’s Decision on Prayer at Government Meetings

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jonathan Whitehead, 816.398.8305, jon@whiteheadlawllc.com

Local Attorneys React to Supreme Court’s Decision on Prayer at Government Meetings

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo., May 5, 2014

Two local attorneys who filed a brief for the Southern Baptist Convention applauded the decision by the Supreme Court on Monday in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. The 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, held that local governments do not violate the First Amendment by opening meetings “with prayer that comports with our tradition and does not coerce participation by non-adherents.”

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case last fall, authored by Kansas City attorneys Michael and Jonathan Whitehead. Michael and Jonathan Whitehead are father and son, respectively. A copy of the brief is at http://bit.ly/1kDxj39 (.pdf; redirects to whiteheadlawllc.com).

“Many Americans will find this decision full of uncommon common sense,” said Michael Whitehead. “Sometimes court opinions are convoluted and indecisive. It is an answer to prayer that this decision is clear on the right of we the people to pray in public meetings,” said Michael Whitehead.

“Town of Greece adopts a strong pluralism that says Americans aren’t too fragile to encounter religious speech from other citizens in town-hall meetings,” said Jonathan Whitehead. “Religious people should be able to give invocation prayers that reflect their actual beliefs,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

“This was a case about two concerns. The first is the risk that the public mistakes a individual’s prayer for the government as a government prayer. The 2nd Circuit said that where a religious person prays at a meeting, the government then had to find competing views to ‘neutralize’ that viewpoint, or else face crippling layers of red tape and lawyers,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

“Today’s majority correctly saw that the greater constitutional concern is how the government reacts to religious speech at government meetings,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

“The government has no business editing prayers, or neutralizing religious speech. There is no place for government religion, but there is wide space for religious speech to government. The majority understands that invocations are traditionally directed from a member of the public to the government, not the other way around. Since the founding, Americans have known how to respect each other, even when they pray from a different denomination or faith,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

“Justice Kagan’s dissent relies on a weak and disappointing pluralism that would silence religious speech to avoid the risk of offense,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

“The majority adopted the stronger kind of pluralism, one that says no topic of speech or disagreement lets any American be treated like a second class citizen,” said Jonathan Whitehead.

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