In the case of Marsh v. Chamber (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
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?