Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Government Prayer Case
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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case challenging a New York town’s practice of regularly starting town meetings with Christian prayer. The challenge was brought by citizens of the town of Greece, N.Y., who felt that Christian prayer was being imposed upon them as a condition of attending public meetings.
The court previously ruled on this issue in a 1983 decision upholding the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its sessions with a nonsectarian prayer. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling on the court to rule in favor of the residents of Greece and overturn the earlier ruling.
“Government-sponsored prayer is off-limits in every other context, and it shouldn’t be allowed here, either,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The court should close this constitutional loophole and keep the government out of the religion business. At the very least, the court should limit the divisive harm of this contentious practice by requiring that official invocations be non-sectarian.”
“When a municipality opens its meetings with a religious prayer, it conveys the message that those who do not share the religious views being expressed are regarded as outsiders and are not true members of the community,” said Art Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This is wrong and the court should correct it.”
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