A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Separation between church and state

No. 12–696.
Argued November 6, 2013—Decided May 5, 2014
Since 1999, the monthly town board meetings in Greece, New York,
have opened with a roll call, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance,
and a prayer given by clergy selected from the congregations listed in
a local directory. While the prayer program is open to all creeds,
nearly all of the local congregations are Christian; thus, nearly all of
the participating prayer givers have been too. Respondents, citizens
who attend meetings to speak on local issues, filed suit, alleging that
the town violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by
preferring Christians over other prayer givers and by sponsoring sec-
tarian prayers. They sought to limit the town to “inclusive and ecu-
menical” prayers that referred only to a “generic God.” The District
Court upheld the prayer practice on summary judgment, finding no
impermissible preference for Christianity; concluding that the Chris-
tian identity of most of the prayer givers reflected the predominantly
Christian character of the town’s congregations, not an official policy
or practice of discriminating against minority faiths; finding that the
First Amendment did not require Greece to invite clergy from con-
gregations beyond its borders to achieve religious diversity; and re-
jecting the theory that legislative prayer must be nonsectarian. The
Second Circuit reversed, holding that some aspects of the prayer pro-
gram, viewed in their totality by a reasonable observer, conveyed the
message that Greece was endorsing Christianity.

This is the beginning of the brief that was presented to the SCOTUS in the case of the Town of Greece vs. Galloway. The gist of it is that the town of Greece, NY was upset because the predominant prayer given at the beginning of their town board meetings were Christian. This showed the domination of the Christian faith in the area, and people wanted something more inclusive. (If you're curious about the full brief given to the SCOTUS you can go here. The link is at the beginning of the first paragraph.)

It doesn't look like anything serious. SCOTUS just struck down the request for a more inclusive prayer session at the beginning of the town meetings. The problem is this infringes on the First Amendment. Now, this may not seem like something to get worried about. I feel it sets a bad precedent.

My concern here is what's going to happen if other people start bringing cases like this to SCOTUS. Are they going to continue to break down the wall between church and state? The predominant religion in the United States is the Christian faith. There are several different denominations but they have some of the same basic premises. Does this mean that the First Amendment is being pushed to the side, which goes against federal law?

North Carolina tried to bring about a “state religion”. You can find some information about that here. The bill was struck down and it wasn't carried out. But how many of us have the fear that someone is going to tell us who we have to worship, that a religion that we don't believe in and we don't wish to follow, will become the legally stated religion that we are required to abide by?

Personally, I think this decision by the SCOTUS could lead to others creating state religions and forcing the citizens to follow that as the law. Where is the freedom of religion in that? Though they would have to repeal the First Amendment to make this a countrywide thing, what's to stop them from doing that? It's possible.

Perhaps I'm just jumping at shadows. But I don't like this.


  1. In this case, it's good to jump at shadows. You have to be ready to react when things go too far and decide what you're going to do about it. Personally, I don't care for this decision. It's too close to endorsement of one religion.

    1. I'm glad someone else feels the same way I do. There have been some rather scathing comments to me when I mention this elsewhere.

  2. I'm with you on this one. IMO there shouldn't be a prayer before the town meetings at all. Seems to me any kind of prayer at all should be considered a violation of the separation of church and state. Interesting post.

    1. That's what I think. Keep all the overtly religious stuff at home or in a church (or whatever gathering place you have).