A New Jersey town canceled its ceremony celebrating new U.S. citizens after federal immigration officials would not allow the event to begin with a prayer.
According to the Star-Ledger, Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman had assured U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials that the prayer leading Saturday’s ceremony would be nondenominational.
“They refused to budge on that,” Reiman said, the paper reported.
The battle came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local government meetings can include sectarian prayers.
Reiman and immigration officials each cited the high court’s opinion.
Reiman, who was elected to office in 2002, said the court’s decision is proof that he should be able to open any event with a prayer. He issued a statement Friday saying it is borough policy to open all borough events with a prayer and a moment of silence.
The citizenship agency said the ruling does not mean federal agencies are required to include prayers in ceremonies. It cited a portion of the justices’ decision that referred to the “Pledge of Allegiance” as one of the traditions that “lend gravity to public proceedings.”
Katie Tichacek Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, told the Associated Press that it’s a long-standing policy to make sure naturalization ceremonies are “conducted in a meaningful manner which is welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements.”
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