A Victory For Public Prayer
On May 5, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the town of Greece, New York, affirming the constitutionally protected right of local officials to open civic meetings with voluntary prayers led by local citizens.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State had filed suit against the town on behalf of two local residents who objected to the community’s prayer tradition. In a bizarre opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had earlier ruled that, because Greece is populated mainly by Christians, it might need to import non-Christians from outside the town to lead non-Christian prayers—so that those who believe differently won’t “feel like outsiders.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have represented Greece officials since the case began in 2008 (“The Problem With Prayer In Greece, NY,” Volume VII, Issue 1), arguing that there is strong legal and historical precedent for allowing deliberative bodies to invoke the blessings of the Almighty on their work, with the U.S. Supreme Court itself affirming that right in Marsh v. Chambers (1983).
“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” says ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”