The Town of Greece County Commission desires to have a clergy-led prayer at the beginning of each meeting and has requested that the managing attorney and legal counsel for the county commission provide her views on the wisdom of opening each monthly meeting with a prayer and whether such prayers are permitted within the realms of the U.S. Constitution. The managing attorney has requested a written analysis of the Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway.
Facts of the Case
The county commission meetings are similar to the town meetings in the Town of Greece including such as award presentations and ceremonial events at the beginning of the meeting. However, the county commission also has frequent hearings in which citizens speak advocating for certain positions and occasionally experts and citizens given sworn testimony during the meeting. The county is predominantly Christian and Protestant but there are also Baptist and Methodist, and Presbyterian churches and Pentecostal places of worship. In addition there are Quaker meeting houses and one Catholic Church as well as Jewish community in the county, a few Muslim places of worship and even a group of Wiccans, Buddhists, and Hindus. Some concern exists because there is no equivalent of clergy in some of these religions. The county commission wants to advertise in local publications and in the news about clergy who would be interested in volunteering to lead the prayer before the meetings and intends to give a commemorative plaque to those who do lead the prayers.
Questions for Analysis
There is a question as to whether in regards to prayers being allowed if the majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy of Justice Kagan in the dissent more accurately characterize the Town of Greece meetings as being similar or dissimilar from the legislative sessions in Marsh. Justice Kennedy writes in the majority opinion in the case Town of Greece, New York, Petitioner v. Susan Galloway, et al. that the District Court rejected the idea that there is a First Amendment requirement for prayers in town meetings to be nonsectarian. Justice Kennedy states "Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, which permitted prayer in state legislatures by a chaplain paid from the public purse, so long as the prayer opportunity was not "exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief, " id., at 794-795." (p. 3, Section 1, Line 2)
According to Marsh, Justice Kennedy states that there was not found any requirement that the prayers 'be purged of sectarian content." (p. 3, Section1, Line 9) However, the Court of Appeals found that that Town of Greek v. Galloway was such that audience members who were not religious had been placed in awkward positions by being basically forced into participation of the prayers. Justice Kennedy states however, that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed on the opinion of the Appeals Court upon the basis that in the case Marsh v. Chambers 463 Y,/s, 783 that the Court had "found no First Amendment violation in the Nebraska Legislature's practice of opening its sessions with a prayer delivered by a chaplain paid from state funds. The decision concluded that legislative prayer, while religious in nature, has long been understood as compatible with the Establishment Clause. As practiced by Congress since the framing of the Constitution, legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society." (p. 4, Section 1, Line.41)
Justice Kagan, in his dissenting opinion in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway that he believes that the Town of Greece's prayer practices "violates that norm of religion equality the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian." (p. 1, Section 1, Line 34) Justice Kagan states the belief that the Town of Greece failed to acknowledge diversity. However, this is not upheld in the information provided by the county commission but rather the opposite is clearly shown in the process the county commission used to reach out to all religious groups in the community and attempt to gain their participation in the prayer at the beginning of the county commission's meeting. Justice Kennedy's opinion is clearly more on point in the decision in…