• Key point 14-02. The courts have ruled that the First Amendment allows chaplains and other ministers to pray before legislative assemblies.
* A federal district court in Indiana ruled that the practice of opening each session of the state legislature with prayer violated the First Amendment's nonestablishment of religion clause because of the overt "sectarian" preference for Christianity. Four Indiana residents sued the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Indiana General Assembly claiming that most of the prayers the Speaker has permitted to open House sessions are sectarian Christian prayers, in violation of the nonestablishment of religion clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The evidence revealed that the official prayers repeatedly and consistently advanced the beliefs that define the Christian religion, and in particular the resurrection and divinity of Jesus. During the 2005 legislative session there were 52 prayers, 41 of them given by Christian pastors. Of these 41 prayers, 29 were offered in the name of Jesus. For example, one pastor's prayer concluded, "Father we are so grateful to you for your grace and mercy that you have allowed us to be able to have and Father I thank you for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died that we might have the right to come together in love." After this prayer the Speaker reintroduced the pastor, saying: "I understand he has a wonderful voice and he is going to bless us with a song." The pastor then proceeded to sing "Just a Little Talk with Jesus." A number of the legislators, staff, and visitors present in the chamber stood, clapped, and sang along at the invitation of the pastor. This event prompted some members of the House to walk out because they believed the sectarian religious display during the legislative session was inappropriate.