Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it good. After all, slavery was a tradition. It has been a tradition to not let same-sex couples marry.
Traditions can be downright bad, or they can at least hold us back. Unfortunately, the recent U.S Supreme Court ruling that government meetings can include specifically Christian prayers invoking not only God but “Our Lord Jesus Christ” allows such a tradition to continue. Indeed, in defending this position, Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, stated that such legislative prayer is deeply rooted in our history.
The problem is that, as Justice Elena Kagan pointed out in her dissent, “our public institutions belongs no less to the Buddhist and Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian. And as the Los Angeles Times editorializes, although Kennedy insisted that the ruling doesn’t authorize prayers that “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities,” a “guest chaplain who prays in Jesus’ name at a town meeting doesn’t have to threaten non-Christians with hellfire to make them feel like outsiders.” Things get all the more tricky when a Hindu or a nonbeliever comes to a meeting to seek the aid of their elected representatives.
Here’s another reason why the tradition of legislative prayers aren’t for the best: With a prayer being offered to seek “the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” conservatives can say that they don’t need to help the poor and disenfranchised because Jesus and God will.