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Does a prayer before a town meeting violate the establishment clause?

November 13, 2013

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

The First Amendment of the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…,” essentially saying that no government, local or federal, can establish a religion, endorse religion, or favor one religion over another.

What is known as the establishment clause was adopted in response to European governments adopting state religions that persecuted people of other faiths. The Founding Fathers wanted a country where individuals could practice their faith as they wished without government intrusion.

This idea led to what is commonly called “separation of church and state,” which many say is one of the founding principles of the Constitution, even though it is not in the Constitution. The phrase was in a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in Danbury, Conn.

So how does the separation of church and state factor into prayers before government meetings?

In November, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway in November. Since 1999, the governing board of the town of Greece, N.Y., has opened its public meetings with a prayer given by invited local clergy or residents. All in attendance are asked to bow their heads in respect and join in the prayer.

In 2007, two residents complained to the town that the prayers violated the establishment clause because they were all Christian prayers. The town quickly allowed non-Christians – a Wiccan and a Jew – to deliver the prayers, but soon after, the Town Board began selecting only Christians again.

Susan Galloway, who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, an atheist, sued the town, saying the prayers before the meetings amounted to government endorsement of one religion because they were primarily Christian prayers.

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case regarding prayers before a public meeting. In 1983, the court decided in Marsh v. Chambers that prayers given by a chaplain before legislative sessions were allowed because of the long history of legislative prayer. Writing for the majority, Justice Warren E. Burger said: “This unique history leads us to accept the interpretation of the First Amendment draftsmen who saw no real threat to the Establishment Clause arising from a practice of prayer similar to that now challenged.”

What makes Galloway different is that the town does not have a chaplain but invites clergy and members of the community to give a prayer. The challengers also contend that in a local government setting, people attend meetings because they are making a request or seeking assistance and may feel coerced into participating in the prayer. Those who do not participate in the prayer would stand out. In a legislative session, they say, members of the public are observers only.

Justice Elena Kagan observed that attendees are “forced to identify whether she believes in the things that most of the people in the room believe in,” and how this could affect how they are received when making a statement during the meeting.

During the hearing, the court openly questioned the Marsh v. Chambers decision, but it seemed reluctant to adopt guidelines that would decide whether prayers before government meetings are constitutional, and whether local officials could or would police the content of prayers at meetings.

Justice Samuel Alito also pointed out the difficulty of composing a prayer that would accommodate all faiths, saying, “I just don’t see how it is possible to compose anything that you could call a prayer that is acceptable to all of these groups.”

What do you think?

If you were sitting on the Supreme Court, whom would you side with and why? Comparing Town of Greece v. Galloway and Marsh v. Chambers, should prayer before a legislative session and a town meeting be treated differently? Does having a predominantly Christian prayer before town meetings violate the establishment clause, or is it a reflection of the community? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
4/9/2014
Frisco, Texas
Andrew
Adams/CTE Center
I believe that praying before a town meeting does violate the establishment clause. By them praying in a town meeting suggests that the town practices a certain religion. If they said a prayer in every religion in which a citizen believed then it would not violate the establishment clause. But as this case happened, i do believe the establishment clause was violated.

4/9/2014
Frisco, Tx
Brooke
Adams/CTE Center
A town's no-swearing by law does not violate the right to free speech because as you enter that town you should know the laws and limitations. So as a person enters, they are putting their own selves in for it.

3/13/2014
Sidney/MT
Tori Hill
Faulhaber/Sidney High School
The issue here is the First Amendment's Establishment Clause to the United States Constitution, which states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." I do not agree with the ruling in Marsh v. Chambers. A prayer before town meetings makes those in attendance who aren't religious feel ostracized. I agree that people may feel coerced into participating in the prayer. I witnessed this when a group of cheerleaders from my division were invited to have brunch with a Catholic cheerleading team from our division. At the end, the Catholic cheerleading team asked everyone to pray. Though I claim I am a Christian, I still felt very uncomfortable because I knew had I chose not to participate I would be ostracized from my teammates and peers. And I wondered if anyone who was praying was not religious and too afraid to speak up. Those who do not participate in the prayer would stand out. I also agree with Justice Kagan that prayer could affect how those who are not religious are received when making a statement during the meeting. They may be undermined because of their faith or lack thereof. I also agree with Alito that "I just don't see how it is possible to compose anything that you could call a prayer that is acceptable to all these groups." I would side with Galloway. Prayer before legislative session and town meetings should not be treated differently, as they are both government functions. Having a Christian prayer before town meetings violates the establishment clause, as Alec from Dixon, CA said.

3/10/2014
Dixon/CA
Alec
Mr. Hawkins/BCMHS
I think that by most reasonable interpretations, having prayer in town meetings violates the establishment clause. If you are allowing a religion to have its prayer, you are giving it greater endorsement in the eyes of the public. In contrast to the desires of the temporary environment in which the government exists, it is important to remove religion from politics. A proposed solution is incorporating all faiths into a prayer. This seems incredibly unnecessary. It should be simply permissible to go without a prayer in my opinion. If that is a part of the practice, it can be done in an unofficial capacity.

1/17/2014
Irving, Texas
Jacob F
Bradley/Nimitz
Though a Christian prayer may be an accurate representation of the community, if there are people in attendance of other religions, I do not believe that a prayer should be offered. Because it would most likely be a prayer of one religion, I do think that is goes against the establishment clause. However, I feel that if they feel a prayer needs to be said, they should ask the observers if there are any objections to the proposition.

1/16/2014
Irving/Texas
Lyndsey
Bradley/Nimitz
I think if a town meeting is going to pray then every religion should have a representative and they should have their own prayer. A legislative session is different though. Since they say that in a legislative session members of the public are observers only, then they don't have to be represented. I think that saying a Christian prayer does violate the establishment clause.

1/12/2014
Irving/TX
Daniel I
Bradley/Nimitz
I side with Galloway in his case. Prayer before a meeting of the town is in violation of the establishment clause. As an atheist I feel that prayer is not necessary before a town meeting and if they must pray, do prayers from every religion there so that no one is left out. The fact that only Christian prayers are done makes it endorsement. It's either all religions get represented or no religions get represented.

1/9/2014
Irving/Tx
Kristiyan
Bradley/Nimitz
I would side with Galloway on this case because every religious group should have their rights just like Americans have their Christian rights at work, school, and anywhere in public. I have been taught from a young age to be yourself and never be ashamed of who you are, and this is a perfect example of this statement. As a free country any one person should be able to pray and exercise their religion at any point of time. It is not only a bad reflection of The United States of America, but the community as well. Rights like this, and how they are treated really express and bring out the true colors of one specific community.

1/8/2014
Irving/Tx
Adrian
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that Galloway is correct in her assessment. Christians are favored by the majority at the expense of the minority. I however believe that prayer is not necessary for conducting a town meeting so should be banned completely.

1/8/2014
Irving/Tx
Jordan B.
Bradley/Nimitz
Now being a Christian it's hard not to be biased because I see nothing wrong with something that is a cultural norm. Although, I do have to put myself in their shoes. If I was of another religion i would feel uncomfortable and unwanted. I feel that if they take the time to do a christian prayer they should take the time to have a prayer for all the other accounted religions. the city kind of refusing to respect the other religions does show what kind of city it is.

1/8/2014
Irving/Texas
Leanna
Bradley/Nimitz
I would side with Galloway if I was sitting in the Supreme Court. The first amendment says "no government, local or federal, can establish a religion, endorse religion, or favor one religion over another." Even if the court is dominantly with the Christian faith, the prayer before the meetings is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. It doesn't matter if it is the majority religion or not, it doesn't represent all the religions that could be worshiped.

12/19/2013
Irving/Texas
Christian S
Bradley/Nimitz
I would be Undecided on this one because the town was pretty much only choosing people from the Christian religion to do the prayers they should just do rotations of people who would want to do the prayers so that it would be fairer instead of making all the problems and arguments that are being used.I believe its the reflection of community because there are multiple towns that only do christian prayers before the meeting and nothing has been said about that.

12/18/2013
Vacaville/ California
Elisa A.
Mr. Hawkins/BCMHS
Prayer before a meeting is a violation of the establishment clause. It is an official meeting and by having a prayer are essential endorsing a certain religion/ favoring that religion over the other. It can make people that are not of that religion to feel uncomfortable and unwanted, maybe even discourage them from attending them in the future. I believe people do have the choice of their form of worship and religion, but official meetings aren't the place to have them.

12/18/2013
Vacaville/California
Alan M.
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham charter Magnet High School
If I were a Supreme Court Justice, I would side with those who believe that a prayer before a town meeting does not violate the establishment clause. Simply praying for help that a meeting would go well does not mean that prayer was a law, as it never was. The freedom of religion addressed in the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” and it never has. Essentially, one does not require a law establishing prayer before government meeting; it is only necessary that the prayer be a reflection of the community. Suppose the community is predominantly Christian. They can choose to do a Christian prayer before the town meeting officially starts. Now suppose the community is predominantly Muslim. If they choose, they can exercise a traditional Muslim prayer if it helps them set a good environment for the town hall meeting to succeed, or follow. In these cases, prayer does not violate the establishment clause; it simply reflects the community’s dominant religion. If the community wishes, they can pray two or more prayers for different religions, so that one religion is not favored over others.

12/18/2013
Vacaville, California
Devon Lacey
Mr.Hawkins\ B.C.M.H.S
I think that the constitution is somewhat contradicting itself by stating there is no favor of religion, and do not enforce religious morals and conduct but they pray before Supreme Court meetings. It seems a little bit hypocritical. I respect the fact that it is suppose to be a sign of respect but I do not think that this should be a ritual before every meeting. It may even make some people feel uncomfortable. What if one does not believe in god? I can only imagine how that person would feel while in this said, meeting. I do not believe that if god were a person that he would involve himself in political opinions and views. In all seriousness, I do not think that god and political dealings should be combined as they have. It seems silly to assume that everyone would feel comfortable praying at a Supreme Court meeting. In my opinion this is not a place of worship but places to set rules, not morals or spirituality. I understand how one would want to mix these two ingredients together but if the constitution contradicts itself of this, what other questions can be raised about the constitution?

12/18/2013
Vacaville/ California
Aareka Davis
Dave Hawkins/Buckingham Charter Magnet High School
In the First Amendment of the Constitution it is made evident that there should be no law acknowledging the establishment of religion. This is ironic considering the fact that America was founded on the basis of religious principles. I don’t believe that the act of prayer is a violation of the clause because it clearly states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. There have been no laws passed saying that is mandatory to say a prayer before a town meeting; the citizens of the town simply choose to do so. I think having representation of any other religion in the town meeting is just a matter of the citizens speaking up for their religion and requesting representation

12/18/2013
Vacaville, CA
Donald
Mr. Hawkins / Buckingham Charter Magnet High School
No, Prayer before a town meeting does not violate the establishment clause. The First Amendment to the Constitution states that the US government will make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Praying before a town meeting does not violate this amendment. In fact, it is a clear display of what this amendment was designed to do, allow citizens to practice whatever religion they choose. There is no law that states a prayer must be said before every town meeting. Prayers are a tradition and an important part of many official government entities. Praying before a town meeting is protected under the First Amendment, not a violation of it. If towns want to hold a prayer before a town meeting they have the right to do so under the Constitution.

12/18/2013
Vacaville, California
Johnny McFadden
Mr. Hawkins/BCMHS
Prayer before a town meeting is tradition: not a violation. People should not argue the prayer as a violation of rights or an attack on their freedom of religion, but as keeping the tradition that our founding fathers stood on. As we keep the Constitution and memorialize our founding fathers with buildings, statues, and carving their faces on mountains, we are keeping the sacred respect and recognition of what they did to create our country. We now live in a country that does not persecute you for your beliefs and gives you the freedom to say what you want without fearing the safety of your life. The prayer is simply a precedence that our founders led with as an example that we should follow because it helped them win the soil we have built our lives upon. Rather than thinking a prayer before a town meeting is the government putting their religion on you and they will persecute you if you disagree, can we just keep the tradition of the men who risked, and for some gave, their lives so that we could live in freedom. A prayer before a town meeting is not violating one’s religion, but it is freedom of speech and a tradition that should be honored and kept.

12/18/2013
Vacaville / California
Jessica
Hawkins / Buckingham Charter Magnet High School
I believe that prayer before a town meeting is a great way to establish peace and good decisions before the meeting, but I would have to side with Galloway on this topic. It’s quite difficult because personally I am a Christian, so I have to think outside of my own faith in this matter. Prayer before a town meeting can make people of other faiths, or none whatsoever, feel uncomfortable and excluded. This country was established with a separation of church and state so that each person can practice their own religion and one single religion would not dominate. Though Christianity holds the majority of the population, hold a solely Christian prayer before a town hall meeting does in fact violate the establishment clause.

12/18/2013
Vacaville/CA
Matthew H.
Mr. Hawkins/ Buckingham Charter Magnet High School
Separation of church and state has always been a controversial topic. It is no different in this case. It is important to note that the majority of the citizens in the Town of Greece are Christian. Thus, according to the rules of probability, it would only make sense that most of the speakers were of Christian faith. However, it would be an uncomfortable setting for a Jew or atheist. If the Justices side with the Town of Greece, they would be supporting the First Amendment of free speech. Free speech can apply to both public and private places. A town meeting is a public setting. If the justices side with the Galloway and Stephens side, then they would be acknowledging that the Town of Greece was deliberately and explicitly establishing a form of Christianity as the religion of that town. Evidently, there is no substantial evidence to prove that. Moreover, isn’t the United States already establishing monotheism as the national religion by putting “In God We Trust” on currency? Thus, the government would be hypocritical. In this specific case, a prayer is the same, whether it is in front of a legislative session or a town meeting. A predominantly Christian prayer is only a reflection of this specific community. No one is trying to establish Christianity as the religion of the Town of Greece. In fact, the Town accepted and employed other prayers that were non-Christian when complaints were made by non-Christians. As a result, when all of the facts and arguments are taken into consideration, the Supreme Court should agree and side with the Town of Greece.

12/15/2013
Irving/Tx
Brian J.
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the prayer before a city council meeting should honestly reflect the community. Even though our nation was set up through the separation between church and state, there will always be a point(s) where they interact. If the community or city is predominantly Christian, as is the rest of the U.S., then the prayer before a meeting may well be a Christian prayer.

12/13/2013
Irving/Texas
Joseph C.
Bradley/Nimitz
If I were a justice I would side with Galloway and the other individuals because if we are to live in a country that allows all types of religion we cannot endorse just one religion. If there is going to be this much controversy over giving prayers before meetings there should just be no prayer to be given. Although some people would want to give a prayer, and then I would allow each of the the religious people present to give there own prayer for the religion they believe in. Whatever the case I am a christian, but I don't think its right to only give a christian prayer all the time.

12/12/2013
Irving/TX
Reyanna
Bradley/Nimitz
In this case I would side with Galloway because it is not only offensive to others who don't have the same religion, but it violates the establishment clause. The First Amendment of the Constitution states that no government, local or federal, can establish a religion, endorse religion, or favor one religion over another. I do not believe that prayer before a town meeting is bad, but I do believe that you should be respectful to other religions and not just one.

12/12/2013
Shoreline, WA
Khalyce
Knox, Shorewood
I side with Galloway because I believe that holding a prayer before a town meeting is exclusionary and unnecessary. Holding a prayer before a town meeting is unfair for those who aren't Christian because they are being expected to participate in an activity which is representative of someone else's beliefs, rather than their own. Disallowing a required prayer before a town meeting would prevent any discomfort or infringement on religious rights. Those who want to pray May still do so as well, just because the required group prayer isn't allowed doesn't mean that they are prevented from praying on their own. There is also no need for a prayer to be held before a meeting as it has no effect on the productiveness or the outcome of the town hall.

12/12/2013
Shoreline/ Washington
Marcia
Ms. Knox/ Shorewood High School
I think that, if people in a town meeting wanted to say a prayer before the town meeting, than they maybe should take a vote? On who is willing to participate in the practice. Of course, if the majority there is Christian; then they are bound to say a Christian prayer. If you look at it from another veiw point, someone who is athiest or jewish. It probably does seem wrong or disrespecftul or maybe even a little inconsiderate. But maybe, if a prayer was voted yes on, thant he prayer could be said to God and not anything more specific that could potentially offend somebody. In the case where they were saying a prayer before a legislative session, than obviously its gonna be more tense. There is a lot of question and debate about what seperation of church and state means. A lot of people i know think that it means any form of religion or church related practices should nit intermingle with the government. However, i think that seperation of church in state means that the state or the government cannot tell you what or what not to believe. So, in my opinion i think that if somebody wanted to say a prayer before either meeting than they should be able to. It is only out of respect to bow your head, even if you don't belive in the same thing. Nobody is forcing you to do anything, simply asking out of respect for the others who choose to believe in it.

12/12/2013
Irving/Tx
Pedro
Bradley/Nimitz
I would side with the town of Greece on the decision. If the majority of the people want to say a prayer, then they should be allowed to do so. I just think that people like Galloway should shut up and deal with it. There are worse things going (employment, the economy, terrorism in Europe, poverty, environmental issues, abortion, etc.) in the country and in the world than a Susan Galloway being offended. I don't believe that prayer in a town meeting violates the establishment clause. If it did, the phrase "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance wouldn't be included. But I fear that soon, groups of people "offended" by the word "God" will push to have that remove if they're not already. I don't see the problem with just respectfully staying quite while someone of another faith says a prayer. But if the people need to be appeased, than I think that a rotational system could be the solution. This rotational system I am thinking of consists of a prayer of the different denominations present being said. One meeting it would be a "Christian" prayer, the next a "Jewish", no prayer for atheists(or whatever they do), and so on. I believe that the prayer is a reflection of part of the community, but not the entire community or otherwise there wouldn't be a problem.

12/10/2013
Irving/Texas
Imbri
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that there is nothing wrong with holding a prayer before the meeting. The freedom of religion applies to the people at the meeting as well, and if you do not believe in the prayer or religion, you can choose not to participate or even hold your own prayer for your religion.

12/9/2013
Irving/TX
Brandon
Bradley/Nimitz
The First Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that “no government, local or federal, can establish a religion, endorse religion, or favor one religion over another. Thus, if I were sitting on the Supreme Court, I would side with Galloway. Whether it be town meetings or legislative sessions, predominantly Christian prayer before either of these violates the establishment clause. Although it may reflect the majority of the community, it doesn’t represent all.

12/2/2013
Irving, TX
Jesus Gonzalez
Bradley/Nimitz HS
I think Galloway for the reason being if he is not allowed to pray before a meeting it is like taking away his first amendment.It does not violate the establishment reason being you are invited to join or sit down when doing it.

11/28/2013
Irving/Tx
Marissa
Bradley/Nimitz
In this situation I would side with Galloway because although I don't find prayer before a meeting bad, that can easily offend someone who isn't of the religion of that prayer. According to the Constitution says no part of government, whether local or federal, can establish, endorse, or favor a religion. Therefore, legally, the town shouldn't hold prayers before meetings if any member attending is uncomfortable with it.

11/25/2013
Irving/TX
Yamilleth
Bradley/Nimitz
I would side with Galloway. Just because it has been a tradition to pray before a meeting does not mean that the tradition needs to continue as it violates other people's rights and defies the first amendment. I have been to town meetings before and remember thinking "why are we getting up to pray, isn't this illegal? Shouldn't town meetings and legislative sessions just stick to discussing the law without having to bring up religion?" It is uncomfortable to participate in something you don't believe in, and I definitely felt out of place when I figured out that everyone else was praying along with the pastor, while I just stood there confused as to why they even had to have a prayer before a meeting. Not only is it uncomfortable for myself and other people who don't believe in any religion, but I can also imagine how left out and angry someone of another religion must feel when only a christian follower's god is being acknowledged, while their God(s) and prayers are never even mentioned at a town meeting/legislative session. It can also affect how someone is received when making a statement during a meeting, and how someone views the official, as to what kind of people are going to be making the decisions in the town meetings.

11/25/2013
Phildelphia PA
sebastian
Ms. Leonard Widener Memorial school
I think we should stop prayers before the fact that we are many religions because it would be the right thing to do

11/22/2013
Irving/Texas
Roberto S
Bradley/Nimitz Hs
I wouldn't mind if the Town of Greece had the right to conduct prayer before City Council meeting as, a open agnostic I don't mind if we say prayer, because I as a person would respect their religion. Also its really great to experience something new or different from other religions. Then on the down side other people wouldn't agree with me, because its their way of life and I as a human being have to accept that.

11/22/2013
Irving/TX
Aaron
Bradley/Nimitz
I agree that it's wrong to say a prayer before a town meeting that's primarily Christian, but it's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that something like this could generate so much controversy. Goodness. Regardless, I feel as though I would've sided with the court case because, despite saying a prayer being a "long-standing tradition" I do think it's time for the people to wake up and realize this country is not what it once was----the diversity all around is one that should be recognized.

11/22/2013
Irving/TX
Edward H.
Bradley/Nimitz
If i were sitting on the Supreme Court, I would have to favor the no prayer side. Although I am religious and a christian, I feel there are just too many people with different views towards religion to favor one. Now, I personally believe that my religion is the right way, but we should respect all religions as well. And comparing to those two court cases, I feel like either they should invite people from different religions on different days to respect each one, or just simply cut out the prayer. And I feel the christian prayer before town meetings does not in anyway violate the establishment clause; It definitely reflects the community though. If the majority of that town is a certain religion, I feel that should be the prayer before the meeting.

11/22/2013
Irving/Tx
Alonzo
Bradley/Nimitz
If I was sitting in the Supreme Court I would most definitely side with Galloway and Marsh. As a American citizen they are allowed to support or not support any religion they want. I'm not saying that they should disrespect the other religions but they don't have to follow it if they don't want to. I would either cancel the praying before the meeting or have different prayers at the meeting so that everyone in the room would get a chance to pray with their religion. Most likely I would end all praying before the meeting. Not trying to offend anyone but I believe there is no need for praying before a city meeting where there would be arguing and disagreements. Having a Christian prayer at the beginning does violate the establishment clause. Bit everyone is Christian meaning there is people that don't get a chance to support their faith and religion.,

11/22/2013
Irving/Texas
Roberto S
Bradley/Nimitz Hs
I wouldn't mind if the Town of Greece had the right to conduct prayer before City Council meeting as, a open agnostic I don't mind if we say prayer, because I as a person would respect their religion. Also its really great to experience something new or different from other religions. Then on the down side other people wouldn't agree with me, because its their way of life and I as a human being have to accept that.

11/22/2013
Irving/TX
Sergio G
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that this is truly not unconstitutional, but now if I am asked if it is right or wrong I would certainly agree with wrong. The reason for this is because truly your decisions would be put to the sides if you are considered different it's just how us human beings are so it would say this is wrong, but not unconstitutional. With saying all that I would like to say that it would be better to leave prayers out of government because truly it just creates more conflicts not needed.

11/22/2013
Irving/Texas
Monica M. M.
Bradley/Nimitz
If I was in the supreme court, I would side with Susan Galloway because not everyone is of the same faith. Each person in different households do things different from what their neighbors might do. I would personally feel out of place if my faith was not a consideration. A prayer is a prayer, there is no different ways to think about it therefore it should not be treated differently no matter where it is being done. Thus it is a violation of the establishment clause only because it sets people apart making them feel like they are not fully a part of the meetings. These gatherings should change their ways either by making it clear in the prayer that “all” are welcomed or have no prayer at all.

11/22/2013
Irving/Tx
Miriam
Bradley/Nimitz
If I was on the Supreme Court, I would say that we should stop prayers before meeting due to the fact that there are many different religions, more than one might be offended by another religion. In order to decrease conflict and promote unity we should not have prayers before meeting. Having predominantly Christian prayers do reflect the community. We are in a new age, with a greater variety of people and religions. People shouldn’t feel left out. If you're not going to include everyone’s religions, not include any at all. We are in a new era where Christianity isn’t the majority. Things have to change.

11/22/2013
Irving/Texas
Hailey
Bradley/Nimitz
I would side with the Town of Greece in this case. I think as the leaders of the town, the ones conducting the meeting have the authority to ask who they want to come pray. If its that big of a deal to people, then maybe they shouldn’t attend the meetings. I also think that if someone is so against a prayer, then they don’t have to participate in it. I have been to City Council Meetings where they had a prayer before, but none of the prayers were trying to force any type of religion on you. I don’t think having mostly Christian prayers is violating the establishment clause, but just representing what is mainly in the city and involved. If another religion wanted to pray before a meeting, I don’t think the Council would turn them down if they asked. I don’t see a problem at all with prayer before a public meeting.

11/22/2013
Irving/Tx
Elizabeth C.
Bradley/Nimitz
If I were sitting on the Supreme Court I would most definitely side with Galloway. The fact that there are currently prayers being held during public meetings is ridiculous. After all the First Amendment of the Constitution does state that no religion shall be endorsed or favored over another religion. Having a predominantly Christian prayer before town meeting certainly violates the establishment clause because religion shouldn't be acknowledged in any type of way. It is not right to hold prayers when you're not suppose to especially if the predominant religion is Christianity. All it does is create favoritism which can potentially affect how each individual is received when making a statement during the meeting. With that being said, I strongly believe that only negative outcomes can evolve from keeping the opening prayers in meetings. By putting myself in Elena's shoes I realized that being that "odd" person who doesn't have the same beliefs as everybody else would make me very uncomfortable. Not only would I feel uncomfortable but I would also feel attacked.

11/21/2013
Irving/Texas
Chadwick
Bradley/Nimitz
If I were sitting on the supreme court, I would side that a prayer before the town meeting is part of a long standing tradition that is imposed through the legislative sessions of congress. In the sense that the government should not endorse a specific religion, I agree there is reason for controversy but at the same time if the majority of a town is of the Christian belief then a prayer reflecting so shouldn't be barred. Honestly if we pray and bow our heads who is going to be able to tell if a person refuses to do so and just sits there quietly until the prayer is concluded. The Christian belief is to accept all people, thus if you don't pray with us we will not hold a grudge- it's not like you're walking in to a church service using our God's name in vain. I believe as long as variety in prayer is offered, the establishment clause isn't violated. From personal experience, the prayers in which I have listened to at city hall meetings, reverence for a specific deity isn't the focus, praying for a productive and efficient meeting is more so the purpose.

11/21/2013
Irving/Texas
Sarah M.
Bradley/Nimitz
Had I been in this court session, I would definitely have sided with Galloway. Religion isn't something that needs to be brought up during public events, unless the event is specifically for that reason. Your religion is your business, just as, for example, your sexuality would be. We wouldn't start off a meeting by explaining whether or not we are straight or gay, so why would we begin a meeting by expressing which religion we are and who we believe in? I don't think that a 'long history' of prayer should effect the decision in any court case. We are a constantly-changing society, so we shouldn't be afraid to change what is considered tradition. I certainly think this violates the establishment clause as well. When an entire group is standing up for a prayer, those who don't practice that particular religion will most certainly stand out. I have personally experienced this myself. I'm agnostic, and when I prefer not to join in on a prayer, I get dirty looks and questions about my beliefs.

11/21/2013
Irving/Texas
Scotty C.
Bradley/Nimitz
If I was on the supreme court I would side with the Town of Greece. The prayer is said so that the town's meeting is "blessed" and productive. All it symbolizes is the calling on of a higher power to help make sure the meeting is safe and constructive. I think everyone can agree that it'd take a higher power to bring individuals together in politics these days. I do not think the two cases being brought forth should be treated any different from each other, because they're both formal gatherings. I look at the fact that the community is predominately Christian the same way I do politics. If the majority of an area is a certain political party, then they win the election. If the majority of an area is Christian, then they should be at least allowed to say a simple prayer before a town gathering. The other individuals are not forced to pray either, they can simply bow there heads to respect the beliefs of others.

11/15/2013
Irving/Tx
Hannah W.
Bradley/Nimitz
If I were to be sitting in the Supreme Court during the case I would probably side with Galloway, simply because she is right when it comes to the fact that because they have a public prayer, it does not accommodate with other people that are of a different faith than those who are praying. It is not fair for people that are Christian to be the only ones allowed to pray because of the fact that there could be people that are of opposite faith and believe in something totally different. I think that having a more dominant Christian group of people is highly unfair and definitely violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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