A Look at the Key Players in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court Case About Government Prayer

We’re a month away from the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, a case that could decide the fate of invocation prayers at government meetings.

While you can read a comprehensive overview of what the case is all about here, PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly recently ran an excellent segment on the case — interviewing some of the major players on both sides — and it’s now available online:

The best part is where we see a follower of Baha’i offering the invocation, suggesting that the practice is inclusive of all faiths, only to learn moments later that he seems to get invited to speak only when all the cameras are on and court dates loom closer:

[Correspondent] TIM O’BRIEN: But what about Tom Lynch of the Bahai faith, who delivered the prayer when we were there with our cameras last August?

TOM LYNCH (Prayer Giver, August 20, 2013): Well, actually, this was my second time.

O’BRIEN: When was the first time?

LYNCH: In 2008.

O’BRIEN: Five years ago?

LYNCH: Yeah.

O’BRIEN: You were here in 2008 when this case first came up?

LYNCH: Right.

O’BRIEN: And then they invite you back now when it’s before the U.S. Supreme Court?

LYNCH: Right.

O’BRIEN: Coincidence?

LYNCH: Maybe.

O’BRIEN: Do you think the litigation has anything to do with your appearance here?

LYNCH: Indirectly, it does. It was because I heard about the litigation, I checked with the town Clerk to see if they were still doing this, and they invited me back.

O’BRIEN: The lower court found that of more than a hundred thirty prayers offered, only four had been offered by non-Christians…

He’s pretty much the exception that proves the rule.

What’s going on in Greece, New York only looks acceptable if you’re a Christian who assumes everyone else believes just as you do. As you as you step outside the bubble, it’s obvious the system is rigged in favor of Jesus. That’s no way to run a government meeting. The only question now is whether the Supreme Court has the good sense to recognize the injustice.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The only question now is whether the Supreme Court has the good sense to recognize the injustice.

    Yeah, and it is not at all a foregone conclusion that they have that good sense. I don’t have a good feeling about this case going before this particular Supreme Court, the most exclusive branch of the Knights of Columbus in the world, comprised of six Roman Catholics and three Jews. Scalia is soooo verrrryy Catholic that he counts as one Cardinal, two Bishops, and four and a half non-pedophile priests. I really wish this case had not come before SCOTUS until at least he had retired. I don’t pretend to understand all the likely consequences if we lose, but it is more than just worrisome to me.

    • flyb

      I have a bad feeling about this as well. I don’t believe a satisfactory outcome to this will happen in our lifetimes.

      • UWIR

        I understand your cynicism, but on the other hand, I felt the same way about legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage twenty years ago, so there is hope.

        • flyb

          Indeed. We’ll see how it goes. Baby steps.

          Mmmm, delicious babies….

    • C Peterson

      This isn’t a court that is going to be remembered for its good sense or its wise decisions. It will be remembered for its dysfunction, its biases, its poor leadership, and (hopefully) an unprecedented number of ultimately reversed decisions. Including, I expect Greece v. Galloway.

      • 3lemenope

        Did you have some specific cases and/or examples in mind?

        • C Peterson

          Yes.

          • 3lemenope

            Care to share?

            • C Peterson

              To what end?

              Suffice to say, in my opinion, history is going to demonstrate a number of decisions taken by this court to be ill considered, and is going to consider several of the jurists on this court to be among the most biased and unqualified of any in the history of the court.

              • 3lemenope

                To what end?

                I was just curious if that opinion had some grounding. Since the history of SCOTUS is something I studied extensively, and continues to be an interest of mine, whenever someone makes a startling claim on the topic I like to see if they know something I don’t so I can learn, and if they don’t to counter arguments factually in error that support the startling claim.

                If you don’t want to, that’s totes cool. It’s just, especially on fora like this, it is unusual for someone to just fling an opinion out there without support and expect it to coast, and you’re usually not shy about providing support for your assertions.

                • C Peterson

                  Sure. I just don’t want to drive the whole discussion on a widely divergent, non-topical tangent. If something comes up in the future specific to the inadequacies of this court (such as news that their decision supports governmental prayer) we can dive into those problems in gruesome detail.

  • flyb

    “it’s obvious the system is rigged in favor of Jesus”

    It’s not that the system is rigged, it’s that the system exists at all. This is the whole reason there should not be prayer of ANY kind mixed up in government affairs. It gets contaminated, or “rigged” as you say, by those in power who have the privilege and ability to contaminate it. It’s not enough to just neuter the system by telling people what they can’t say during the prayer, or equalizing the number of times certain faiths are represented. All invocations, blessings, moments of silence, prayers, or whatever they call it should be eliminated permanently.

    “It’s the only way to be sure.”

    • JET

      ^^ This.

    • UWIR

      Yeah, but the “The system shouldn’t exist at all” argument has already been tried and failed, so strategic move is to start with “The current instantiation of the system is unfair” and work our way up to “The system is inherently unfair”.

  • Rain

    The “Baha’i guy” seemed kinda evasive for what I’m sure is a totally honest and forthright religion. Although I don’t blame him one bit since nosy reporters badgering him with question is probably annoying as hell, and his religion is baloney anyway.

  • A3Kr0n

    Susan Galloway. Atheist, A/V nerd, hero.

  • UWIR

    I like how there’s now a clickable “Read more” link at the bottom of the article previews on the main page, in addition to the title at the top of the article preview being clickable. I don’t know whether it’s FA or Patheos that made the change, but I whoever did it, thank you.

  • Etothe2iPi .

    I guess they needed an alibaha’i.

  • John T.

    The only injustice here is to force a town that just so happens to be made up primarily of Christians to go outside of its borders, as the 2nd Circuit preposterously suggested, to invite a disproportionate number of prayer-givers from non-representative faiths to offer prayers simply to please principles of sheer political correctness. The town’s policy allows people of any faith to come and pray if they wish. That’s not “rigging” anything.

  • Dan Courtney

    I had the good fortune to host the plaintiffs in this case (Linda Stephens and Susan Galloway) at a Freethinkers meeting a couple of weeks ago. What you don’t get from the news stories is the courage of these two women. They have been threatened and harassed for merely asking that they (and those like them) not made to feel like outsiders in their own town. Whatever the outcome, I am grateful to these women for standing up for my rights.

    BTW, I live just outside of Greece, but I’ve sent a letter to the town offering to provide an invocation as an atheist. We’ll see if they really welcome diversity.