The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 allowing prayer before civic meetings in the town of Greece, NY. Opening board meeting with prayers has been a tradition and did not violate the First Amendment.
Prayer in school and in other public places has been a contentious battle over the years. There have been court battles regarding the 10 Commandments on government properties, schools banning Bibles, and pastors receiving fines for hosting home Bible studies.
The town meetings of Greece are not exempt.
Atheist Linda Stephens and Jew Susan Galloway filed the suit against the town arguing they felt forced to participate in mainly Christian prayers and it violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, Stephens told CNN, who won the suit in the lower courts.
“I don't believe in God, and Susan is Jewish, so to hear these ministers talk about Jesus and even have some of them who personally question our motives, it’s just not appropriate.”
Justice Elena Kagan agreed that the practices of having prayer before a public meeting could not be reconciled with the First Amendment’s promise as every citizen regardless of religion, has an equal share in the government.
Kagan wrote that no one can fairly read the prayers in this case, but believed there is nothing wrong with prayer.
“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian --constantly and exclusively so.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that ceremonial prayer is recognition that the nation was founded on a higher power.
“Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government, to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgement of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs.”