When the PA House of Representatives reconvenes to open their legislative session later this month they will be able to continue their guest chaplain policy for opening prayer, thanks to a recent court ruling and due to the commitment of Speaker Mike Turzai to this issue. 

Last year, members of the Pennsylvania House lost in district court when a group of non-theists sued over their longstanding guest chaplain policy that requires those opening legislative sessions in prayer be “a member of a regularly established church or religious organization.” 

The PA House courageously moved forward with an appeal. One year later, on August 23, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals overruled the lower court’s decision. As a result, on Tuesday, October 1st, Chief Judge Christopher Conner, who had ruled against the PA House in favor of the atheists and agnostics, has now ordered that the court’s previous decision be vacated, the claims made by the non-theists be completely denied and ruled in favor of the PA House.

Speaker Mike Turzai courageously stepped up to the challenge and used the legal means available to his office to rightfully defend the constitutionality of the prayer policy. 

Independence Law Center, the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, in conjunction with the Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of four of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Congressmen who took a stand to defend prayer: Mike Kelly, Scott Perry, Lloyd Smucker and Glenn Thompson.  That brief was cited by the Third Circuit to establish the longstanding purpose of these prayers — that “legislative prayers seek ‘divine guidance’ in lawmaking.”

The Independence Law Center applauds Speaker Mike Turzai in leading the effort to win this tremendous Third Circuit victory to uphold this longstanding practice of prayer before legislative sessions. Indeed, it is important that the legislature seeks God’s favor while they debate and pass laws.