Geof Stone on SCOTUS Decision in Town of Greece, New York, v. Galloway
The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from engaging in any practice “respecting an establishment of religion.” So is it constitutional for the town board of Greece, New York, to open its monthly meetings with a prayer given by clergy selected from congregations in the town—all of which are Christian? Yes, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-4 decision in Town of Greece, New York, v. Galloway.
In the past, the court has held that a legislative body does not violate the Establishment Clause if it begins its proceedings with a prayer, so long as “the prayer opportunity” is not “exploited to proselytize or advance any one...faith or belief.” The town of Greece clearly violated that essential condition. Indeed, from the time the town established its prayer practice in 1999 until the litigation commenced, a period in which the town board held approximately 100 meetings, every chaplain invited to deliver the opening prayer represented the Christian clergy.
Moreover, the vast majority of their prayers were explicitly sectarian in nature, routinely invoking “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Your Son,” “the Holy Spirit,” the “resurrection and ascension of the