The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term on Monday. One of the cases the court will consider is a prayer at public meetings.
Toni M. Massaro, a University of Arizona law professor, said the topic has a history in the nation's highest court.
“Thirty years ago, the court decided a case upholding legislative prayers consistent with the history of the United States,” she said. “ A lot happened since then.”
Over the years, the court changed the law with respect to the establishment clauses. Now, four justices want to return to that theme and possibly amend the law that has been applied to legislative prayer, Massaro said.
Sandra Day O’Connor, a retired Supreme Court justice from Arizona, was an architect of the endorsement test, which asks whether a government action endorses any particular religion or religion in general.
Massaro said Day O’Connor’s absence is important to the case.
“One of the areas in which people predicted, when she stepped down, was that her absence would be most palpable in religion cases,” Massaro said.
This case will show whether the court will keep applying that test or a more exclusively historical test, she said.