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Community Board Meeting Ends With Prayer After Supreme Court Ruling

By Eddie Small | May 15, 2014 5:33pm
 The Community Board 3 meeting on May 13 ended with a prayer invoking Jesus Christ.
The Community Board 3 meeting on May 13 ended with a prayer invoking Jesus Christ.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

MORRISANIA — Community Board 3 ended a recent board meeting with a prayer, prompting a chorus of cheers and "hallelujahs" — and a shout-out to the Supreme Court.

"Reverend Abraham Jones, would you please send us off safely into the affairs of God?" CB3's First Vice-Chairman Bruce Rivera asked at the end of May 13 meeting, just days after a Supreme Court ruling allowed the practice.

Jones was happy to oblige.

"We ask that you would come go with us, that you might protect us on the highways and the byways, protect us from dangers seen and unseen, oh God," he said. "And Lord, that when we arrive home, oh God Lord, our possessions will be intact, and our loved ones will be safe. We ask all these things in all the name of the precious, the glorious, the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Immediately following the benediction, Rivera hailed the Supreme Court for its May 5 ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which allowed local governments to begin meetings with explicitly religious prayers.

"That deserves a round of applause," Rivera said at the end of the meeting, sparking a round of cheers from attendees, along with a chorus of hallelujahs.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the case, which held that insisting on prayers not affiliated with a specific religion was inconsistent with the country's history and would force the courts to act as "censors of religious speech."

"These ceremonial prayers strive for the idea that people of many faiths may be united in a community of tolerance and devotion," Kennedy wrote. "Even those who disagree as to religious doctrine may find common ground in the desire to show respect for the divine in all aspects of their lives and being."

Though the decision has faced criticism from some commentators, Community Board 3 was not among them.

The board has done invocations and benedictions at its meetings for "some time," according to District Manager John Dudley. He said he felt more comfortable than ever with them now in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

"Not everyone believes. We understand that," Dudley said. "But it reinforces the general collective sense of the existence of a divine being, a supreme being, and the fact that nothing positive happens without recognition and intervention from the above."