Tag: Town of Greece v Galloway

August 25, 2014
May 14, 2014
City council members praying before a meeting

The recent US Supreme Court decision, Town Of Greece, New York v. Galloway, opened the door to ‘legislative’ prayer that can be said at the beginning of a government meeting or event. Although the court said that government can’t proscribe the content of such prayers, it did give some guidelines on what prayer would pass a constitutional test. Some nonreligious groups are creating programs to offer people who would give nonreligious ‘prayers’. Some conservative governments have taken the court decision as a green light to only allow Christian prayers. This issue is far from being solved.

In the court decision, handed down on May 5th, Justice Kennedy wrote:

May 6, 2014
Religion in government is okay if it is generic

In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the US Supreme Court said that the Town of Greece New York could open their town council meetings with a religious prayer. The majority on the court held that legislative prayers were not unconstitutional because they were traditional acts performed at government meetings. We’ve seen this argument before, it has been called Ceremonial Deism and it means a civic religion divorced of any specific religious meaning. I would think that Christians would be very upset that the court considers their religion ‘generic’. Just because Ceremonial Deism has been a tradition doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful.

One argument the court used to rule in favor of the Town of Greece was the old argument from tradition:

August 11, 2013
photo of people praying before a meeting
Praying before a meeting

Town of Greece v. Galloway is a US Supreme Court case to heard in the fall that might set the boundaries for prayers before town council meetings so they aren’t a violation of the separation of church and state. One interesting thing to come out of the pre-hearing filings is that the Obama administration is supporting the prayers. I really never knew why it was so important for an elected body to pray before working since prayers don’t make elected officials do a better job nor do the prayers improve living in a certain town or county. As one church state group put it, a town council meeting ‘isn’t a church service and it shouldn’t seem like one.’

We found out this week that President Obama’s administration weighed in on the case in an amicus brief and took the side of the town council.