Court OKs legislative prayers
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled that the prayer sessions which open meetings of Congress and many state legislatures do not violate the Constitution. Reversing a lower court decision, it also ruled that legislative chaplains may be paid with public funds and that such ministers do not have to be changed regularly to make sure one religion does not dominate such observances.
The 6-to-3 decision was a victory for Nebraska, which had appealed a ruling stopping the Legislature's practice of a morning invocation. A lower court held that using public funds to pay the chaplain and to print prayer books was unconstitutional entanglement with religion.
The decision is also likely to be a boon for Congress, which is fighting a suit by a group of atheists challenging the $52,750-a-year salaries paid House and Senate chaplains.
In other action, the justices:
-- Ruled 6 to 3 police did not need a warrant to search a pacakge delivered to an Illinois man after customs inspectors discovered it contained illicit drugs.
-- On a 7-to-2 vote, said attorneys appointed to represent poor criminal defendants donot have to follow their clients' suggestions on how to handle the case.