WASHINGTON (ABP)—The Supreme Court agreed May 20 to hear a case centering on whether sectarian prayers at the beginning of official government meetings violate the First Amendment—an issue that has roiled local governing and school boards for years.
Justices will review an appeals court ruling that found a town council in upstate New York at odds with the Constitution after 11 years of offering primarily Christian prayers at the opening of public meetings.
A lower court had upheld the council’s practice, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the council should have found members of other faiths to pray.
Two residents of the town of Greece, a suburb of Rochester, who are not Christian said they felt marginalized by the prayers and challenged the practice.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is representing the two residents, told the Washington Post, “A town council meeting isn’t a church service, and it shouldn’t seem like one.”
David Cortman, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the town, told the Post the framers of the Constitution prayed while drafting the Bill of Rights. “Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray,” he said.
The Supreme Court case, Town of Greece vs. Galloway, will be argued this fall.