Supreme Court Upholds Town Government Prayers

“We are disappointed by today’s decision.  Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “Town-sponsored sectarian prayer violates the basic rule requiring the government to stay neutral on matters of faith.”

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend of the court brief supporting the residents of Greece.

“The constitutional requirement that church and state must be separated rests, in part, on the understanding that when government supports one religion over others, people who are not members of the favored religion are made to feel like outsiders by their government,” said Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

No one should be treated like a second-class citizen by their local governments because they do not share a particular set of beliefs.  Religious freedom is alive and well in the United States precisely because the government does not take sides on matters of religion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, reasoned that Greece had not violated the Constitution because the prayers were “ceremonial.” Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent said that the town’s prayer opening could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.”

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