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Issue Briefs

Town of Greece v. Galloway: What’s at Stake?

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February 21, 2014

What this case is about

In the Town of Greece, New York, the town board held monthly meetings to conduct city business. The board opened these meetings with a prayer given by a rotating resident of the town. A majority of the time, the prayers were offered by Christian pastors, although in a few instances members of other faith traditions offered the invocation (a Jewish man, a Baha’i leader, and a Wiccan).

The challengers to the Town’s practice argue that this practice amounts to an “establishment” of religion by the government. Because members of the public that are required to be at the board meeting for city business like zoning issues, they argue, the public is forced to pray.

Ultimately, this case is about whether a prayer offered before a governmental meeting of any kind is constitutional. This particular case is about a town board meeting, but prayers are offered every day as Congress, state legislatures, state and federal courthouses, city councils, and school boards open for business. Praying to God for wisdom, guidance, and Providence as the legislature opens for business has been a part of America’s tradition since the days of the Founding Fathers.

If the challengers to the Town of Greece’s practice win in this case, it could mean the end of prayer in these situations, including the Presidential Inauguration.

Download the brief for more information.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. Read More

Travis Wussow

Travis Wussow serves as the Vice President for Public Policy and General Counsel. Travis led the ERLC’s first international office located in the Middle East prior to joining the Washington DC office. He received a B.B.A. in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from The … Read More