Christian Legislative Prayers and Christian Nationalism

31 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2019 Last revised: 11 Jul 2019

Date Written: February 28, 2019


“Legislative prayers” is the term used for the opening prayers that start many sessions of local government. The proliferation of Christian legislative prayers around the country both reflects and strengthens Christian nationalism. Christian nationalism maintains that the United States is a Christian nation, and Christian nationalism’s defining characteristic is that religious identity and national identity overlap. Christian nationalism necessarily implies a hierarchy based on religion, with Christian insiders who are true Americans and non-Christian outsiders who are not. Moreover, those with strong identification with Christian nationalism have more hostile attitudes towards out-groups, religious and otherwise. That hostility paves the way for hostile public policy. Consequently, Christian nationalism does not simply lead to symbolic exclusion from the community and nation, it may lead to actual exclusion. As a result, whether Christian legislative prayers violate the Establishment Clause is an easy question: Of course they do. One of the goals of the Establishment Clause is to stave off developments like Christian nationalism and the caste system it creates. The solution is also easy: Eliminate legislative prayers. At the very least, the practice of exclusively or even predominantly Christian prayers should stop.

Keywords: Establishment, Establishment Clause, Religion, Prayers, Legislative Prayers, Christian Nationalism, Marsh, Town of Greece, Social Science

Suggested Citation

Corbin, Caroline Mala, Christian Legislative Prayers and Christian Nationalism (February 28, 2019). 78 Washington and Lee Law Review 451 (2019), University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Caroline Mala Corbin (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

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