Town of Greece and the Demise of Religious Neutrality
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The Court has decided the first of two anticipated blockbuster religion clause cases this term. In Town of Greece v. Galloway, it held that a town legislature may open its meetings by inviting a minister to offer an explicitly sectarian and denominationally specific prayer without running afoul of the Establishment Clause. Constitutional prohibitions apply only if there is a long-term practice of giving prayers that proselytize or denigrate other faiths, or perhaps if there is evidence of intentional discrimination in selecting prayer-givers. Yet the fact that a government-sponsored prayer is always given by a Christian minister and promotes Christian beliefs is not evidence of discrimination. In over a decade, every prayer given at the start of board meetings in the Town of Greece was delivered by a Christian clergyperson, and two-thirds of those included theologically specific content, such as references to the divinity of Jesus Christ.