The supreme court has a big task lined up for them this Wednesday. A case that could determine the place of prayer in government meetings has made it's way from little Greece, NY all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Since 1999, the town of Greece, New York, began all of its legislative sessions with prayers given exclusively by Christian clergy. As is common among Christian prayers, there were references to "Jesus", the "Holy Spirit", and God as "Father". The prayer giver often asked those in attendance to bow their heads and was frequently thanked for being the "chaplain of the month."
In 2008, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, two Greece residents – one Jewish, one atheist – noted that residents attending the meetings are forced to sit through the prayers. Galloway filed a lawsuit challenging the town's practice of starting its sessions with Christian prayers, claiming that doing so was an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion violating the First Amendment. After the lawsuit was filed, Greece government officials tried to incorporate more different types of religious prayers in their meetings, but eventually returned to primarily Christian prayers.
Although Greece won in the trial court, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the town's practice of starting its sessions with predominantly Christian prayers violated the separation of church and state.
Now the case is making it's way to the Supreme Court, as reported by the Miami Herald. Politicians from both major parties are coming together in a show of support for prayer being a part of government meetings.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is leading the charge to keep prayer as a vital part of government meetings. 33 other legislators from Texas, Arizona, and other states are joining in. And in an unexpected pew-sharing, the Obama administration has joined conservative state and federal lawmakers in urging the Supreme Court to tolerate prayers during government meetings. The Senators wrote in a brief advising the Supreme Court:
"For a few minutes each morning, politics and party are set aside. Instead of debate, senators reflect on their duty... mindful of the nation's core values and their need for divine assistance in carrying out their responsibilities."Much debate will revolve around a 1983 Nebraska case in which the Supreme Court decided that opening legislative sessions with prayers did not violate the First Amendment. Under the ruling, called Marsh v. Chambers, legislative prayer is not allowed only if the government acts with "impermissible motive" in choosing prayer givers of only one religion or violating the rights of all potential prayer givers.
Whatever the decision on Wednesday, Rubio and others have made it clear. Prayer is an important part of government service for many officials. What do you think? Should prayer be included in government meetings?