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Court Prayer Case Debates Town's Invocations at Public Meetings

Thursday, 07 Nov 2013 03:38 PM

By David Ogul

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A Supreme Court case about the proper place for prayer at public meetings is drawing strong interest across social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

At issue is whether starting town board meetings in the hamlet of Greece, N.Y., with prayers is unconstitutional because almost all of the prayers invoke the name of Jesus.

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The town has a practice of starting its public meetings with an invocation from a Chaplain of the Month. But officials say that members of all faiths and atheists can give the opening prayer. A federal appeals court ruled, however, that almost all of the town’s chaplains are Christian.

“A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language,” wrote Judge Guido Calabresi, according to The New York Times. “Roughly two-thirds contained references to 'Jesus Christ,' 'Jesus,' 'Your Son,' or the 'Holy Spirit.’”

Taken together, he wrote that the town’s practice “must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.”

The appeals panel struck down the practice in a unanimous decision. The town appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments on Wednesday.

People were weighing in on the case via Facebook posts and Twitter.

The Associated Press described the Wednesday hearing as a session with a lively give-and-take “that highlighted the sensitive nature of offering religious invocations in public proceedings that don’t appeal to everyone and of governments’ efforts to police the practice.”

The case is formally known as Town of Greece v. Galloway.

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