In 2014, in the wake of a shooting in which multiple children were injured, the city of Ocala, Florida held a prayer vigil. Three of those present, along with the American Humanist Association, sued, claiming that the involvement of municipal officials in organizing the event entailed unconstitutional government support for religion. The suit has dragged on ever since, as both plaintiffs and defendants believe they are taking a stand on a matter of principle. Kesley Dallas writes:
In any setting, it would be nearly impossible to get members of the two camps onto the same page. But the legal system seems especially ill-suited for resolving this conflict, since related cases often get bogged down by, or dismissed due to, questions of standing and disagreements between parties over what really took place.
Still, the Supreme Court has provided some important insights over the years. For one thing, it’s said that the government can’t coerce people to pray, especially not impressionable public-school students on their graduation day. . . . The court has also said that government officials shouldn’t privilege one particular faith over others by, for example, allowing only Christians to offer prayers before legislative meetings. However, it hasn’t been receptive to the argument that allowing any prayer to be offered in that setting privileges believers over atheists.
[But] lawsuits focus on what the Constitution allows. They rarely enable communities to figure out what pluralism looks like in action or help public officials understand how to be more inclusive when they talk about their faith. [In a sense], the legal system is not equipped to answer what, at the end of the day, are political and social questions: how, as a community, should we celebrate or mourn? How do we use faith to draw people together, rather than tear them apart?