The United States Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of prayer before public meetings.RELATED: Pastor loses bus driving job for praying with students
Town of Greece v. Galloway pits two challengers, one an atheist and the other a Jew, against the Upstate New York town of Greece. The two women claim the invocations violate the First Amendment for two independent yet mutually reinforcing reasons:
“It puts coercive pressure on citizens to participate in the prayers, and those prayers are sectarian rather than inclusive.”
In other words, these women claim the town is aligning itself with a particular religion and forcing it on those present in the meetings. A lower court ruled the prayers unconstitutionally endorsed Christianity due to unique Christian references such “the Holy Spirit’ and “Jesus.”
The argument seems shoddy at best, considering the town does not regulate the content and accepts volunteers from any religion to lead the invocations.
A 30-year-old precedent founded in Marsh v. Chambers upholds prayer prior to public meetings. Delivering the Opinion of the Court, Chief Justice Burger explained that historical contextualization:
“sheds light not only on what the draftsmen intended the Establishment Clause to mean, but also on how they thought that Clause applied to the practice authorized by the First Congress--their actions reveal their intent.”Legislative prayer dates to the First Congress in 1789. While it is faulty logic to appeal to tradition for validity, it is safe to presume, as Burger reasoned, that the Founders' intention in the First Amendment was not to demand a secular public square.