Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: May 5, 2014
  • Case #: 12–696
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II–B. Roberts, C.J., and Alito, J., joined the opinion in full, and Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined except as to Part II–B. Alito, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Scalia, J., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Scalia, J., joined as to Part II. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

There is no violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause when a town meeting is opened with a prayer, given the precedence in legislative history.

Respondents filed suit against Petitioner in federal court claiming Petitioner violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by preferring Christianity in the prayers that open up the town board meetings. Petitioner allows any religious group or atheist to come and offer the opening prayer. The District Court on summary judgment upheld that prayer practices were consistent with the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, stating there was no endorsement of Christianity with starting a meeting with a prayer as it was precedence in legislative history. The history of prayer in Congressional history is not new, as it follows a tradition practiced from the early days of Congress and is still practiced in many state legislatures. To require prayers to be nonsectarian and provide a generic message results in censorship, a violation of one's First Amendment rights of religious speech and freedom. In addition, there are difficulties in determining what is considered sectarian and nonsectarian speech. As long as the prayers are respectful in tone, and invites all lawmakers to reflect on shared commonalities before beginning business, it serves a legitimate function.

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