On May 5, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, upholding the practice of the Town of Greece, New York, of having prayers open town board meetings. Since the practice was initiated in 1999—replacing the previous practice of a moment of silence—the prayers have been overwhelmingly Christian, with frequent explicit references to “Our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Moreover, the town did nothing to indicate that the prayers were not endorsed by the town government.
I cannot say I was optimistic about the outcome of this case, as I indicated last year (“The Looming Supreme Court Showdowns,” Free Inquiry August/September 2013, Volume 33, no. 5). In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld official prayers in the context of state legislatures and Congress, principally on the basis that the First Congress had chaplains. With a conservative majority on the court, one could envision the Marsh decision being expanded to include local government meetings.