In the 2014 Greece decision, Justice Kennedy used the concept of "ceremonial prayer" to justify sectarian prayers at public board meetings. The Greece decision largely negated the US Court of Appeals ruling in Joyner v. Forsyth County, which barred sectarian prayer at the Forsyth County Board of Supervisors public meetings, but it also acknowledged that members of the public have no obligation to listen to the prayers, which must be clearly directed toward the elected officials. Cal Thomas' reaction to the Kennedy decision was withering: "If prayer is largely “ceremonial” and “traditional” then it has lost all meaning. One might as well chant “2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate!
Bill J. Leonard is James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and Professor of Church History at the School of Divinity, Wake Forest University. He holds the PhD from Boston University and is the author or editor of some 23 books, the most recent of which is "A Sense of the Heart: Christian Religious Experience in the US." He and his family are members of First Baptist Church, Highland Avenue, Winston-Salem's oldest African American congregation.