US appeals court says House chaplain can reject secular prayers

Since 1789, daily prayers have been authorized in the US House of Representatives (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

Washington (AFP) - A US appeals court upheld a ruling Friday that the House of Representatives' chaplain is not required to allow secular prayers to be offered as part of the chamber's daily proceedings.

Since 1789, daily prayers have been authorized in the lower chamber of Congress. Lawmakers can request that the prayer be offered by a chaplain other than the House chaplain, currently Patrick Conroy.

Over the past 15 years, 40 percent of the prayers have been delivered by guests from various religions, according to court documents. Similar rules exist in the US Senate.

But in 2014, a Democratic representative asked Conroy to allow Daniel Barker -- a former minister turned atheist -- to deliver a secular prayer.

After Conroy rejected the request, Barker sued, citing the constitutional right to freedom of religion stipulated in the First Amendment of the US constitution.

He lost, then appealed, before losing again Friday. The federal appeals court in Washington explained that Congress recently clarified its rules to state that a prayer must be religious.