The United States Supreme Court heard arguments on Nov. 6 regarding the controversial issue of public prayer. The case Town of Greece v. Galloway is poised to decide the future of prayer in government buildings across the country. Greece, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester, is the main focus of the case. Every Greece town board meeting opens with a prayer. Per the 1983 Supreme Court case Marsh v. Chambers, legislative prayers are constitutional as long as there is no discrimination in selecting which religious groups are represented.
Does Greece adhere to the rulings of this case? No.
Tom Lynch of the Bahá’í faith has opened the board meetings twice. One was in 2008 when this issue was first brought to the public, and the second time was in 2013 when the case went to the Supreme Court. Coincidence? I would guess not.
Out of more than 130 prayers, people of non-Christian faiths offered four. How could this be considered nondiscriminatory? The town of Greece does not care about including other religions; residents only care about trying to appear innocent.
Susan Galloway, a 51-year-old Jewish resident of Greece, said she feels as if this tradition conflicts with the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
A Federal Court of Appeals in New York sided with Galloway when it found that roughly two-thirds of the prayers offered before board meetings contained the words and phrases associated with Christianity, which included “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son” and “The Holy Spirit.”
President Barack Obama said that he supports the town of Greece in a Justice Department amicus curiae brief that questions the Federal Court of Appeals’ assertion, and said that phrases like “Holy Spirit” could apply to many religions, such as Islam. This is absolutely ludicrous, for if a person of Christian faith says the phrase, then it refers to the Christian “Holy Spirit.”
The administration is going back on many of its views of separation of church and state. It is unfathomable to see why the Obama administration would side with the town of Greece. It not only goes against its own views, but it goes against the Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling.
Greece Town Supervisor John T. Auberger said, “Our founding fathers believed in the right for us to pray and have that freedom of expression of prayer, and that’s what we offer here today in 2013 in the town of Greece.”
Auberger is right that the expression of prayer is a freedom stated in the First Amendment, but so is the establishment clause.
Galloway echoed the ideas of this clause when she said, “I think, for the protection of government as well as the protection of religion, that they need to be separate.” She added, “When religion gets involved with government, it can corrupt government.”
Greece is clearly violating the establishment clause. For when any level of government has prayer before legislation is discussed, that government implicitly endorses that prayer’s religion over all others.