Decision this morning from the U.S. Supreme Court:

From Reuters:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of government entities across the United States to allow sectarian prayers prior to public meetings.

The court said on a 5-4 vote that the town of Greece in New York state did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on government endorsement of religion by allowing prayers before its monthly meetings.

In a decision that is likely to guide how local governments throughout the United States handle the question, the court said that officials in Greece did not violate the law when picking prayer-givers, who were overwhelmingly Christian.

Even the plaintiffs challenging the practice in the Rochester, New York, suburb of 100,000 people, conceded that some types of nonsectarian prayers were permitted under the Constitution.

The difficulty facing the justices was how to decide how courts should consider when a prayer could violate the First Amendment, which requires the separation of church and state.

The court was divided along ideological lines, with the conservative wing of the court saying the prayers were acceptable, while the liberal justices said the practice violated the First Amendment.

Some additional details from CNN:

The conservative majority offered varying interpretations of when such “ceremonial” prayers would be permissible. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the Greece case and did not offer a broad expansion of legislative prayer.

Fellow conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia went further, suggesting that even any “subtle pressure” that local citizens might feel would not be enough to ban such prayers.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said, “When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another. And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.”

You can read the full decision here.