Police Say Prayer Illegal On U.S. Supreme Court Grounds

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Police say prayer illegal on U.S. Supreme Court grounds

The Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter to U.S. Supreme Court officials Thursday that urges them to stop their police officers from prohibiting people from quietly praying outside the court building. Christian teacher Maureen Rigo, her students, and a few adults were told by a court police officer that they must stop praying there because it was against the law.

“Christians shouldn’t be silenced for exercising their beliefs through quiet prayer on public property,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “The last place you’d expect this kind of obvious disregard for the First Amendment would be on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court itself, but that’s what happened.”

On May 5, Rigo, a teacher at Wickenburg Christian Academy in Arizona, along with her students and a few adults, were taking an educational tour of the Supreme Court complex. After arriving at the Oval Plaza, they stood off to the side at the bottom of the steps, bowed their heads, and quietly prayed amongst themselves to God.

Even though they were not obstructing traffic, not demonstrating, and praying quietly in a conversational tone so as to not attract attention, a court police officer approached the group and told them to stop praying in that public area immediately. The prayer was stopped based on a statute, 40 U.S.C. §6135, which bars parades and processions on Supreme Court grounds.

“Mrs. Rigo was not engaging in a parade, procession, or assembly. She was speaking in a conversational level to those around her with her head bowed,” the ADF letter to court officials explains. “There is no reason to silence Mrs. Rigo’s activities since these activities do not attract attention, create a crowd, or give off the appearance of impartiality. The ban on public prayers cannot hope to survive First Amendment scrutiny.”

Read more: Alliance Defence Fund

40 USC 6135 – Sec. 6135. Parades, assemblages, and display of flags in the Supreme Court Building and grounds

It is unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display in the Building and grounds a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement.

1st Amendment – United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.