The Aftermath of Greece v Galloway

The Supreme Court’s predictable but disappointing and wrongheaded decision in Greece v Galloway, which allows government bodies to open with prayer or some other type of invocation, will inevitably result in a whole new round of lawsuits over how people are selected to offer such messages. The new policy adopted by the town of Greece, NY is a case in point and CFI reacts to it:

Although the guidelines have some positive aspects, including a specific assurance that the invocation need not take the form of a prayer, but rather can simply be “a short solemnizing statement,” the Center for Inquiry is disappointed by the guidelines, as they appear to exclude the nonreligious from delivering an invocation.

“If this policy does, in effect, bar the nonreligious from delivering invocations, it would represent a disappointing step backward for the Town of Greece,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. “Just last month, atheist Dan Courtney was afforded the opportunity to deliver a moving secular opening. That Dan was given this opportunity was very meaningful for the nonreligious of the Town of Greece—and for all those concerned about separation of church and state—as, among other things, it conveyed a message of inclusiveness befitting a solemn opening of a democratic body.” Video of Courtney’s invocation is here.

Throughout the new policy document, the Town of Greece refers to the target group of invocation speakers as “religious assemblies.” The only people to be invited to deliver prayers are those who are “appointed representative[s] of an Assemblies List.” This annually amended list is to include “all ‘churches,’ ‘synagogues,’ ‘congregations,’ ‘temples,’ ‘mosques’ or other religious assemblies in the Town of Greece.” Indeed, the sample invitation letter to be sent to speakers starts with the greeting “Dear Religious Leader.”

While the Supreme Court ruled that there is no violation of the Establishment Clause when a prayer with religious content is delivered before a town meeting, Justice Kennedy also made clear that this was dependent on the town maintaining a policy of non-discrimination, and noted that the Town of Greece had “represented that it would welcome a prayer by any minister or layman who wished to give one.”

Unfortunately, notably absent from the Town’s list is any method for a secular individual or group to be able to deliver a solemnizing invocation. The Center for Inquiry will monitor the implementation of the Town of Greece’s policy in conjunction with local residents, in an effort to ensure that the Town of Greece does what it has promised to do: provide a non-discriminatory invocation policy, open for all residents of the town, rather than an opportunity for religious groups to proselytize.

The city council of one town in Florida has voted explicitly not to allow any non-religious person to deliver an invocation. In other places, they let each individual board member choose someone to give the invocations, which almost inevitably means only Christians get to do it. With all the major secular groups encouraging their members to sign up to give such invocations, you can expect a wave of lawsuits when some local legislative bodies try to prevent them from doing so. And we’ll find out whether the requirement of non-discrimination contained in the Greece ruling is going to have any meaning in actual practice.

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About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • John Pieret

    Here is Dan Courtney’s invocation:

    youtube.com/watch?v=m01rD656kGM

    It got a nice round of applause.

  • D. C. Sessions

    And we’ll find out whether the requirement of non-discrimination contained in the Greece ruling is going to have any meaning in actual practice.

    I’m sure it will have as much practical importance as, for instance, Brady.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    …and noted that the Town of Greece had “represented that it would welcome a prayer by any minister or layman who wished to give one.”

    Back when I was a superhero, I was Layman, but I had to give it up because fornication isn’t a superpower, no matter how good I am at it*.

     

    And we’ll find out whether the requirement of non-discrimination contained in the Greece ruling is going to have any meaning in actual practice.

    Look, it’s not the State’s job to be picking and choosing acceptable invocations, which is why the Supreme Court decided to step out of the way and let the State do that.

     

    * Ladies.

  • abb3w

    So, will this idiocy by the town of Greece result in Greece v Galloway lawsuit #2? And if so, just how incredibly pissed is Justice Kennedy going to be?

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Isn’t this contempt of court?

  • Ben P

    I’m sure it will have as much practical importance as, for instance, Brady.

    Assuming you mean the criminal case Brady, I actually think that’s misplaced.

    Sure, I’ll grant there are lots of news stories of prosecutors abusing their discretion or hiding evidence, some are incredibly egregious.

    However, post brady, more and more prosecutors have adopted open file discovery policies. It’s still a minority but it’s growing. More importantly, in my experience prosecutors are often quite aware of Brady and fearful of Brady violations. Sure, Brady doesn’t necessarily affect plea bargains, but on cases that go to trial, there are few more sure ways the prosecutor can get a case overturned than by screwing up disclosure of evidence.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Sure, Brady doesn’t necessarily affect plea bargains, but on cases that go to trial, there are few more sure ways the prosecutor can get a case overturned than by screwing up disclosure of evidence.

    Always assuming that the defendant finds out before being convicted or, better yet, executed [1]. If you do a good enough job of shitcanning the exculpatory evidence, though, you can sometimes get a death sentence. Either way, you’re golden due to absolute immunity.

    [1] CONNICK v. THOMPSON


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