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Friday, November 8, 2013

Supreme Court Hears Prayer at Town Meetings Case

We previously reported on the blog that the U.S. Supreme Court was going to hear oral argument in the case involving prayer at town board meetings this term.  As we reported before, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, individuals had sued the Town of Greece, N.Y., claiming that the Town Board's practice of opening up its town meetings with a prayer was unconstitutional.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the practice unconstitutional and specifically expressing concerns that the majority of the prayers were led by representatives of the Christian faith.  That ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court finally heard argument from the Town's attorney, an attorney for the federal government, and the attorney for the individuals who had protested the Town's practice.  The Supreme Court justices focused much of their questioning on a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision called Marsh v. Chambers.  In that case, the Court upheld a state legislature's practice of opening up legislative sessions with prayer on the basis that the practice of opening sessions with prayer could be traced back to the very first Congress. Some justices questioned whether this previous ruling applied to the Town's practice, and others questioned its continued validity. A few justices expressed concerns about government interfering with local government practices. 
The argument and questioning was lively and sometimes contentious, particularly when the justices questioned the plaintiffs' attorney.  You can read the transcript of the Supreme Court's argument here.  For those who can't get enough, you can read more about the argument and access all of the court filings on SCOTUSblog.
We will keep you posted on this case and update the blog when the Supreme Court issues its decision.


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