American Proscenium

Let Us Pray (But to Whom?)

In May, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is not offended when a city council opens its meetings with a short prayer (Town of Greece v. Galloway).  While this result seems to be an example of commonsense constitutionalism, conservatives should not be too quick to pat the Court on the back.  Many of the guidelines offered by the Court in Galloway are incongruent with orthodox Christianity and should cause Christians to question whether they can participate in “approved” religious practice.

Since 1999, the town board of Greece, New York, has opened its meetings with a prayer.  Each month, the board invited a member of the local clergy to deliver the invocation.  Because nearly all the congregations in this small town outside of Rochester were Christian, most of the clergymen who agreed to pray were Christian and prayed in the name of Jesus.  The prayers often referenced the Holy Spirit and theological concepts associated with Christianity.

Susan Galloway, a resident of Greece, sought an injunction that would limit the town to “inclusive and ecumenical” prayers that referred only to a “generic God” and would not associate the town government with any one faith or belief.  Galloway lost in the district court but prevailed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where a panel of judges found...

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