- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
- Israel’s ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
- Md. parents accused of locking up autistic twin sons
- Dancing Kim Jong-un video sparks North Korea fury
Interpretation of ruling on meeting prayer puts effects in question
Question of the Day
The U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of a town’s longstanding practice of prayer before government meetings was seen by many as a victory for religious liberty, but even advocates can’t pinpoint exactly how the case will affect the future of religious freedom.
In a 5-4 decision last month, the justices ruled that Greece, N.Y., did not violate the Constitution by opening its government meetings with a prayer.
Thomas M. Johnson Jr., an attorney who worked closely with the legal team on the Town of Greece v. Galloway case, called the decision a “significant victory for friends of religious liberty.” But during a talk Wednesday at the Family Research Council, Mr. Johnson admitted that questions remained.
“Will the [decision] be interpreted narrowly, or as a significant and necessary course correction?” he said. “The issue in a lot of these cases is whether or not we’re going to respect individual freedom.”
Mr. Johnson said the country would likely start to see different ways in which states and localities handle the question of religious freedom.
“What’s good for San Francisco might not be good for the town of Greece,” he said, adding that the answer should be reflective of each community.
Other possibilities for future cases could involve privately funded memorials on public land that incorporate religious imagery, holiday displays, or hosting non-religious events in a church or synagogue.
The case began in 2008, when Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit against the town of Greece on behalf of two residents who protested that only Christians were delivering prayers at town council meetings.
Town leaders said they provided the opportunity for anyone to lead the opening prayer at the meetings regardless of religion or lack thereof, saying the practice dates back to the nation’s founding.
The Supreme Court decision reversed the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which held that Greece officials were endorsing Christianity and violating the Constitution’s “Establishment Clause,” which bars the government from favoring one religion or faith.
David Cortman, director of litigation and senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, welcomed the ruling, noting that the high court said it is important to look at the historical practice of anything being challenged.
“It’s difficult to say a practice that’s 200 years old is now unconstitutional because of a test framed 40 years ago,” Mr. Cortman said.
A good sign for future religious liberty cases, he said, is that the majority of the justices determined that “offense is not coercive, therefore it doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause. Our hope in this is now that we have five justices discussing the coercion test, it could officially take the place of the endorsement test, which we think is problematic, and certainly unclear.”
Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan said the narrowness of the Supreme Court’s ruling has created more gray area.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- Humanists seek support from Congress on military chaplains
- Islamic State's threats on Christians used to win support of Muslims
- Higher Ground: Urban Outfitters in hot water over deity duvet
- U.S. firefighters, emergency responders volunteer to help in Israel
- Church of England allows female bishops
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
- Obamacare dealt massive setback by federal appeals court
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Rep. Jared Polis' anti-fracking crusade riles Colorado
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- LYONS: Small-arms treaty, big Second Amendment threat
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq