The Supreme Court announced this Monday that they will try another religious concern, this time the use of prayers to open public meetings. They will review an appeals ruling that claims the small town of upstate New York, Greece, violated the Constitution not in opening their town meetings with prayers, but for having the leaders of prayers be consistently Christian for nearly 11 years.
Indeed, it seems that all but four of the opening prayers have been Christian. In 2008, four of the twelve meetings were opened with non-Christian prayers, including a prayer by a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess, and a member of the Baha’i.
The case against the town is being lead by those non-Christians who feel marginalized by the predominantly Christian prayers. But then again, they are more or less marginal in the literal sense: the small town of 100,000 people chooses the laymen who will lead in prayer from the local publication of churches – and there are no non-Christian places of worship in the town. The appeals court said they should have looked outside their town for non-Christian places of worship.
The non-Christian town residents will be presented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, while the town will be represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, whose senior counsel, David Cortman, claims the framers of the Constitution prayed during the drafting of the Bill of Rights, and, as the Washington Post reports, “Americans today should be as free as the Founders were to pray.”
However, it is not a matter of being free to pray, necessarily, but what faith gets to choose the prayer – something more of an issue now than it was for the Founding Fathers. It has already been established that the opening prayers are constitutional “so long as the government does not act with improper motive in selecting prayer-givers.”
That will be determined this fall. The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway, 12-696.