RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A U.S. Supreme Court decision on prayer in a New York case should end the dispute over the Rapid City Council’s decades-long practice of beginning meetings with an invocation, city officials say.
Justices said Monday that prayers to open town council meetings don’t violate the Constitution, even if they routinely stress Christianity. The ruling was a victory for the town of Greece, New York.
Prayer at public meetings also has been an issue in Rapid City. The Wisconsin-based nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation last year asked the city to stop beginning council meetings with a prayer. The prayers have been conducted by local ministers since at least the 1950s.
“It’s a tradition that we’ve been doing for a long time,” Mayor Sam Kooiker told KEVN-TV.
The foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state, did not explicitly threaten to sue Rapid City but did send two warning letters.
City Attorney Joel Landeen told the Rapid City Journal that the Supreme Court ruling means it would be foolish for the foundation to pursue the matter.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. “I’m certainly not worried about it.”
Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said she was dismayed by the ruling but that the group won’t stop its battle against public prayer, which she called offensive.
“Why does a city council need to pray over liquor licenses, streets and variances?” she added. “The answer does not come from above. We have to solve our own problems and I think in most cases we are up to the challenge.”