Move along. No praying here. It’s against the law.
That’s the message a United States Supreme Court officer gave to a group from an Arizona Christian school as they stopped for a moment of prayer outside the Supreme Court building May 5.
While taking an educational tour of the Supreme Court, Wickenburg Christian Academy teacher Maureen Rigo, her students and a few adults stood off to the side of the Oval Plaza steps, bowed their heads and quietly prayed. Even though they weren’t obstructing traffic, were not demonstrating and were not praying in loud voice so as to draw attention to themselves, a police officer told the group they were not allowed to pray there because it was against the law.
Last week the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sent a letter to U.S. Supreme Court officials urging them to stop their police officers from prohibiting people from quietly praying outside the court building. The letter threatens legal action against Supreme Court police if Rigo is not allowed to return and pray there without fear of punishment.
ADF notes a U.S. code that makes it “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.”
In its letter the ADF says that code did not apply to Rigo and her group. Small groups are not hindered from stopping and carrying on conversations in the area Rigo and her group were in, so the officer was obviously singling out Rigo and her group simply because they were praying, according to the ADF.
This is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment rights of Rigo and her group. In addition to violating their rights to freedom of speech and freedom to exercise their religion, it violates their equal protection and due process rights as well.
Hopefully the Supreme Court police will correct this error quickly. Otherwise the Supreme Court will one day be deciding whether a small group can pray outside while inside it opens its session with a crier saying, “God save the United States and this honorable court.”