Prayer at Public Meetings? Religious Liberty post-Greece v. Galloway Explained
By Doug Torok
The ACLU believes that the right of every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is one of the most fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Constitution’s framers understood that religious liberty can flourish only if the government plays no direct role in religion.
Join us for the 2014 Ed Likover Memorial Lecture to learn what religious liberty means post-Greece v. Galloway. Be part of the conversation as Plaintiff Susan Galloway explains her choice to speak out against sectarian prayers at public meetings.
The majority of U.S. Supreme Court Justices view ceremonial prayer as neutral with respect to religion. However, when local government includes religion in its proceedings, it becomes personal. Though the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway is disappointing, and has further eroded the separation between church and state, it by no means solidifies the unification of church and state.
The Supreme Court decision stipulates the following:
- Local governments cannot control the religious message given at meetings.
- Prayer is accepted for only ceremonial purposes, not official government business.
- Government/public officials cannot promote and endorse prayer.
- Official prayer deemed constitutional by this decision is one that is spoken at the beginning of a governmental body’s meeting to solemnize the occasion and recognize religious leaders in the community.
- Governmental bodies that open sessions with a prayer must have a long tradition of performing the practice.
- Official prayer doesn’t involve children.
- Prayer cannot be used to convert or demean the beliefs of others.
- Prayer cannot occur during the official conduct of a governmental body.
In the aftermath of Town of Greece v. Galloway, when governmental bodies attempt to use this decision as a justification to involve themselves more in matters of religion, we will continue to defend the rights of all Americans to believe what they want – without government interference.
Learn more about Greece vs. Galloway.