Richard C. Schragger

Town of Greece: Local Government Gets No Respect



Does the plurality's opinion in Town of Greece empower local communities going forward?  The obvious answer seems to be yes, as Greece won its lawsuit and so will be permitted to continue its (citizens’?) preferred prayer practices.  But not so fast.  As we have already noted, Justice Kennedy's opinion for the plurality treats the prayers in Greece as an odd amalgam of public and private speech.  He observes quite strenuously that if the Board invites ministers to give opening benedictions, it has a limited role in dictating the content or scope of those benedictions.  The Town Board is not in charge of its prayers, it appears.  Rather, the invited ministers are.  Of course, the town can hire its own chaplain presumably—as the legislators in Marsh did—but it is not clear from Kennedy's opinion whether it can tell that chaplain what to say (cf. Turner v. City of Fredricksburg).


Richard C. Schragger, Town of Greece: Local Government Gets No Respect, Balkinization (May 8, 2014).

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