Society of Separationists v. Whitehead

In Society of Separationists v. Whitehead, 870 P.2d 916 (Utah 1993), the Court reviewed the constitutionality of Salt Lake City's practice of opening its city council meetings with prayer and upheld that practice as constitutional. In doing so, the Court concluded that article I, section 4 of the Utah Constitution does not impose an absolute ban on government expenditure of public funds or use of public property in support of religion or religious institutions. Id. at 937. Article I, section 4 of the Utah Constitution reads: "The rights of conscience shall never be infringed. The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust or for any vote at any election; nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror on account of religious belief or the absence thereof. There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment. No property qualification shall be required of any person to vote, or hold office, except as provided in this Constitution." Instead, a "neutrality" requirement was read into the "no public money or property" language of article I, section 4, and the Court concluded: The middle ground we adopt rests on the concept of governmental neutrality that underlies our constitution's religion and conscience clauses, which in this instance means neutrality in the use of public money or property. When the state is neutral, any benefit flowing to religious worship, exercise, or instruction can fairly be characterized as indirect because the benefit flows to all those who are beneficiaries of the use of government money or property, which may include, but is not limited to, those engaged in religious worship, exercise, or instruction. Id.