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Justice Samuel Alito drove home that point in a separate concurrence Monday in which he called the liberals' dissent "quite niggling.""Not only is there no historical support for the proposition that only generic prayer is allowed," Alito said, "but as our country has become more diverse, composing a prayer that is acceptable to all members of the community who hold religious beliefs has become harder and harder."THREE DECADES OF CONTROVERSYThe court's 30-year-old precedent, Marsh v.
Chambers, upheld the Nebraska Legislature's funding of a chaplain who delivered daily prayers.
National data on prayer practices at the city, town and village levels do not exist.
The Supreme Court cracked down on prayer in schools in the 1960s, ruling against Bible readings, the Lord's Prayer or an official state prayer. Kurtzman, a 1971 case involving religion in legislation, the high court devised what became known as the "Lemon test." Government action, it said, should have a secular purpose, cannot advance or inhibit religion and must avoid too much government entanglement with religion.
"And that means that even in a partly legislative body, they should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines."The long-awaited ruling came seven years after two women -- a Jew and an atheist -- took the town to court, and six months after oral arguments in November.
SEVEN YEARS IN COURTThe legal tussle began in 2007, following eight years of nothing but Christian prayers in the town of nearly 100,000 people outside Rochester.
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday narrowly upheld the centuries-old tradition of offering prayers to open government meetings, even if the prayers are overwhelmingly Christian and citizens are encouraged to participate.
But several justices were doubtful during oral arguments last year any prayer could satisfy everyone, leaving the court little option but to reiterate its support of legislative prayer or remove it entirely from government meetings – something they clearly did not want to do.In 1984, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "endorsement test" established that every government practice must be examined to determine whether it endorses one religion.