In the case of Marsh v. Chambers (463 U.S. 783 (1983)), the US Supreme Court upheld the tradition of having a minister open each session of the Nebraska State Legislature with a prayer. They found that this was not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.

  • The Court did not look to any tests (like the Lemon Test), or any previous precedents to determine the constitutionality of the prayers. Instead, they simply noted that Legislatures have been traditionally opened with a prayer since the founding of the United States.
    • The Court noted that the Founding Fathers opened Congressional sessions with a prayer, so they must have thought it was not unconstitutional.
      • “This unique history leads us to accept the interpretation of the 1st Amendment draftsmen who saw no real threat to the Establishment Clause arising from a practice of prayer similar to that now challenged.”
  • How is this different from the Court’s decision in Engel v. Vitale (370 U.S. 421 (1962)), which found that opening each school day with a prayer was a violation of the Establishment Clause?