Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Supreme Court on Monday reversed an appeals court’s ruling against saying Christian prayers before a government meeting as it found the practice not in violation of the Establishment Clause.
Five justices against four ruled to uphold a district court’s 2010 decision on the case between the New York town of Greece and two local women who sued in 2008 to stop the prayer during monthly town board meetings.
The women, Susan Galloway, a Jew, and Linda Stephens, an atheist, claimed that the town preferred Christian prayer givers and is sponsoring sectarian prayer contrary to the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s ruling in 2012 finding that Greece is endorsing Christianity. The case was elevated to the Supreme Court the following year.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling for the five conservative justices while Justice Elena Kagan led the other three dissenting liberal justices. Kennedy said Greece’s board members did not direct the public to participate in the prayers and did not single out dissidents for reproach. He also said there was no evidence to indicate that the decisions of town board members might be influenced by their acquiescence in the prayer opportunity.
Siding with Kennedy were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Kagan said “the town council did nothing to be inclusive of other religious beliefs.” Siding with her were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.