Supreme Court to rule on Christian prayers at government meetings

By David Edwards
Monday, May 20, 2013 11:25 EDT
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Rev. Daniel Coughlin delivers prayer in the House of Representatives (C-SPAN/screen grab)
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The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday announced that it would decide whether government meetings can include prayers from Christian clergy.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the town of Greece, N.Y. had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by using Christian pastors to deliver a prayer to start official town meetings, according to USA Today.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the town on behalf of two women, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens.

“A town council meeting isn’t a church service, and it shouldn’t seem like one,” Americans United Executive Director said in a written statement obtained by USA Today. “Government can’t serve everyone in the community when it endorses one faith over others. That sends the clear message that some are second-class citizens based on what they believe about religion.”

The Supreme Court ruled thirty years ago that a state legislature could open its session with a non-denominational prayer. But the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals found that Greece had favored Christianity over other religions.

“In practice, Christian clergy members have delivered nearly all of the prayers relevant to this litigation and have done so at the town’s invitation,” the court said in a ruling last year.

Arizona-based Christian non-profit group Alliance Defending Freedom appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, and the Family Research Council is backing the effort by filing a brief on behalf of 49 U.S. House members who support prayer in government.

“If the Second Circuit’s decision is what the Establishment Clause requires, then Congress has been violating the Establishment Clause since it was ratified in 1791,” Family Research Council lawyer Kenneth Klukowski wrote. Klukowski pointed out that 97 percent of the prayers in the 112th Congress were Christian.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by June 2014. The court’s next term begins in October.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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