Thursday, May 17, 2012

Court Rules Prayer Unconstitutional in New York Town

The U.S. Court of Appeals (in New York) for the 2nd Circuit agreed with atheists that the upstate town of Greece, NY violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by opening town board meetings with prayer for eleven years.

For background, read when the lower court ruled in favor of allowing the prayers in this case.

UPDATE 5/20/13: U.S. Supreme Court will decide case by June 2014

-- From "2nd Circuit finds NY town prayers unconstitutional" by Terry Baynes, Reuters 5/17/12

"The town's desire to mark the solemnity of its proceedings with a prayer is understandable; Americans have done just that for more than two hundred years. But when one creed dominates others -- regardless of a town's intentions -- constitutional concerns come to the fore," Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

Two Greece residents, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, complained in 2007 that the town board only invited Christian clergy to deliver the invocation. The next year, the town invited a Wiccan priestess, a chairman of a local Baha'i congregation and a lay Jewish man to give the prayer. But prayers at eight of the 12 meetings were Christian.

Galloway and Stephens [with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State] sued the town and its supervisor in 2008, challenging the prayer practice under the Establishment Clause. The district court ruled in the town's favor before a trial, finding that town employees did not intentionally exclude any particular faiths and did not restrict the content of the prayers.

The 2nd Circuit case is Galloway et al v. Town of Greece et al, No. 10-3635.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Court rules NY town's prayer violated Constitution" by The Associated Press 5/17/12

In what it said was its first case testing the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled the town of Greece, a suburb of Rochester, should have made a greater effort to invite people from other faiths to open monthly meetings. The town's lawyer says it will appeal [all the way to the Supreme Court].

A town employee each month selected clerics or lay people by using a local published guide of churches. The guide did not include non-Christian denominations, however. The court found that religious institutions in the town of just under 100,000 people are primarily Christian, and even Galloway and Stephens testified they knew of no non-Christian places of worship there.

The court ruled the town should have expanded its search outside its borders.

Joel Oster, senior counsel for ADF [The Alliance Defense Fund] who argued the town's case, called the ruling "highly inconsistent" with what the Supreme Court has said on the issue and said it means towns will have to "complete an obstacle course" before they can qualify to say a prayer before a meeting.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.