Supreme Court Starts Term That Includes Local Prayer Case

Oct 7, 2013

A local court case involving prayer at public meetings is among the issues that the U.S. Supreme Court will tackle in the term that began Monday.

The high court will decide whether starting government meetings with a prayer violates the constitution when the message is almost exclusively Christian. Two people filed suit, claiming that the Town of Greece Board's practice of starting their meetings with a prayer amounts to government endorsement of a single faith.  Gregory Lipper is senior litigation counsel with the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“The question really here is whether citizens can be coerced or pressured to participate not only in prayer but in prayers of another religion that they may not agree with and may not practice as a condition of participating in their local government and as a condition of petitioning their local government,” Lipper said.

Joel Oster  is senior counsel with a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports the idea of prayers at public meetings.

“The town has a practice and a policy of allowing anyone in town who wants to give the invocation to do it and they have never denied anyone the right to give the prayer, “ Oster argued.

The White House has filed a brief in support of the town's position that its prayer practice does not violate the constitution. The justices are scheduled to hear the case on November 6.