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May 6, 2015

Re: U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Prayer at Council Meetings

Dear Mayor:

We would like to make you aware of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Town of Greece New York v. Galloway. This case dealt with the practice of that town’s local governing body to invite a member of the local clergy to deliver a prayer before meetings. 

In a five to four decision the Court held that the town did not violate the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. The opinion, for the most part, relies on the Court’s previous decision in Marsh v. Chambers, which dealt with a state legislature’s use of prayer. In Marsh, the Court reasoned that legislative prayer was constitutionally correct because “by reference to historical practices and understanding,” there was no violation of the establishment clause.

This is a very complex area of the law and we recommend that you speak with your municipal attorney for guidance on this issue.

The decision can be found here http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-696_4f57.pdf

Very Truly Yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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