Portland, Oregon Civil Litigation Defense Attorneys - Kaempf Law Firm PC

A Blog by John Kaempf

Monthly Archives: March 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that a town can open its board meetings with a Christian prayer without violating the First Amendment

In Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway, 134 Supreme Court 1811 (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court decided whether the town of Greece, New York, imposes an impermissible establishment of religion by opening its monthly board meetings with a Christian prayer.  The Court held that no violation of the U.S. Constitution was shown.

In Greece, a town of 94,000 in upstate New York, monthly town board meetings begin with an invocation by a local clergyman invited by the town supervisor.  “The prayer was intended to place town board members in a solemn and deliberative frame of mind, invoke divine guidance in town affairs, and follow a tradition practiced by Congress and dozens of state legislatures.”  Id. at 1816.  A minister of any persuasion, even an atheist, could give the invocation, but because nearly all congregations in town are Christian, all of the participating ministers were Christian.  The town did not review the prayers in advance or provide guidance about their content.  “Typical were invocations that asked the divinity to abide at the meeting and bestow blessings on the community: ‘Lord we ask you to send your spirit of servanthood upon all of us gathered here this evening to do your work for the benefit of all in our community.  We ask you to bless our elected and appointed officials so they may deliberate with wisdom and act with courage.  Bless the members of our community who come here to speak before the board so they may state their cause with honesty and humility.’”  Id.   Continue reading

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