Supreme Court prayer decision sparks Quad City reactions

It’s a weekly tradition every Monday at the Outing Club.

“Let us bow our heads,” said Tom Sunderbruch.

Sunderbruch delivers the invocation for Davenport Rotarians. The prayer is a longtime practice to begin the meeting.

“Help us recall our responsibility to one another and to other people of the world,” he said.

After Monday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision, it’s also okay for city councils and public boards to begin meetings with a prayer.

It’s something that already happens in Rock Island and Bettendorf.

“It’s an erosion of the First Amendment,” said Tom Benge.

Benge, a former local president for the American Civil Liberties Union, isn’t surprised by the high court’s decision. Still, he is upset by the precedent.

“There should be a separation of church and state,” he said. “The government should not push any certain religion.”

The decision is based out of a Greece, New York case. Two non-Christian women sued after attending public meetings that included prayers.

Justices ruled that such prayers, which are routine for legislatures and city councils throughout American history, do not violate the constitution.

In Davenport, council meetings start with a moment of silence. How much that changes there, if at all, will depend on interpretation.

“Personally, I think it’s a good thing,” said Davenport Alderman-at-Large Gene Meeker. “We are public servants. We do feel we need some divine guidance once in a while in our decision making.”

With the ruling just hours old, too early to tell if the Rotary tradition will become more common at other public meetings in the Quad Cities.

“They’ll just have their way and do as they please,” Benge said.

“It’s a good idea to remember that we’re not the most important people in the world,” Sunderbruch countered.

It’s a prayer endorsement with Supreme Court support. A weekly tradition at Rotary that could become more common at public meetings.

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