Press Release  Religious Liberty

ERLC Files Brief Calling for Religious Liberty Protection for Public Prayer in Supreme Court Case

human dignity

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention filed a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court Friday, Aug. 2, calling for religious liberty protection for public prayer before city council meetings in the case Greece v. Galloway.

Most recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court opinion and ruled that prayer before a New York towns council meetings was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is scheduled to review the Second Circuit opinion on appeal.

The ERLC brief argues the towns prayer policy does not violate the First Amendments Establishment Clause and that prayer by an individual is not classified as government speech.

“When the government allows religious speech in a public forum, it does not endorse any or all messages or establish religion, the brief states. It establishes freedom.

The ERLC brief also states the Second Circuit was wrong in requiring a “perspective that is substantially neutral amongst creeds.” This would unconstitutionally compare “the content of the prayer with a state-established concept of neutrality,” the brief states.

ERLC President, Russell D. Moore, reacts to the case.

As a Baptist, I don’t want the government taking on the mission of the church. Just as our Baptist forefathers did, we believe that the gospel doesn’t need the public purse to advance the cause of Christ.

“The Town of Greece case is about a government seeking to establish a state-ordered civil religion that crowds out the most basic rights of freedom of speech. That is not what our ancestors, and their allies among the American Founders, meant by religious liberty. We shouldn’t have a state-sponsored Baptist church, I agree, but we shouldn’t have a state-sponsored Unitarian church either, and that’s what some are attempting.

In the Town of Greece case, private citizens are speaking, praying for a blessing on the proceedings of their city council. The government doesn’t write the prayers, and doesn’t coerce anyone’s conscience. To object to this is to insist not only that the government be neutral to religious expression but to insist that the government be hostile to religious expression by citizens. We stand with those who believe in the freedom of speech, including religious speech, in the public square as a prized part of our liberty.”

The Southern Baptist Convention is Americas largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBCs ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.


To request an interview with Russell D. Moore

contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409

or by e-mail at [email protected]

Visit our Web site at

Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC

human dignity

Related Content

abortion pill

Supreme Court hears abortion pill case

Baptist Press

WASHINGTON (BP) – The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 26 in...

Read More
Supreme Court Groff v. Dejoy case

ERLC files amicus brief in Supreme Court abortion drug case

Baptist Press

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has filed an amicus brief in an...

Read More

Supreme Court to hear case regarding Idaho abortion ban

Baptist Press

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Supreme Court will rule on a case involving an Idaho law that...

Read More
303 Creative

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood Commends Supreme Court Ruling in 303 Creative Free Speech Case

People are free to speak, create, and operate in ways that are consistent with their deepest-held beliefs—even when those beliefs are deemed culturally unpopular.

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2023—Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics &...

Read More
Supreme Court Groff v. Dejoy case

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood Applauds Unanimous Religious Liberty Ruling in Postal Worker Supreme Court Groff v Dejoy Case

‘Your profession of faith should not be a barrier to your professional vocation.’

Washington. D.C., June 29, 2023 —Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics...

Read More

On Anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court’s Historic Dobbs Decision, ERLC Has Given 27 Ultrasound Machines in Last Year

A new and vibrant culture of life is being established in our nation after decades of death caused by Roe v. Wade’ says ERLC President Brent Leatherwood

Washington. D.C., June 23, 2023 —The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern...

Read More