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Idea of the Day: Why We Should Pay Attention to Legislative Prayer

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The Town of Greece, New York, located just eight miles east of Rochester, has a population close to 100,000 people and includes residents who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, and Baha’i, as well as many who do not subscribe to any faith. But despite the town’s religious diversity, since 1999, residents attending town board meetings have first had to sit through a Christian prayer.

Two town residents, after asking the board to change its practice several times, filed a lawsuit against the town board in 2008 because they were offended by the “town board’s alignment with Christianity through the board’s persistent presentation of Christian prayers.” The board, they argue in their complaint, “sends the message to non-Christians that they are unwelcome at Board meetings and that the Board does not represent non-Christians’ concerns.”

A district court upheld the town board’s practice, but on appeal, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous 2011 decision, said that the Greece town board’s prayer practice was unconstitutional. The town then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. Town of Greece v. Galloway will be argued before the Court November 6.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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