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Legislative prayers debated a week ahead of SCOTUS arguments
Rochester, N.Y. A large crowd gathered Tuesday night for a discussion on an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case with ties to the Town of Greece.
At the offices of Nixon Peabody in Rochester, around 150 people listened to two lawyers go back and forth about whether certain legislative prayers are constitutional.
The two are key players in the case scheduled for oral arguments before the Supreme Court justices next Wednesday.
Heather Weaver, of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Brett Harvey, of Alliance Defending Freedom, flew in for the discussion.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Town of Greece while the ACLU is supporting the plaintiffs.
Those plaintiffs, two Greece residents, sued the Town of Greece in 2008 claiming the prayers before town meetings constitute an endorsement of religion.
Tuesday night, Weaver and Harvey laid out some of the arguments likely to be heard at the Supreme Court next week.
The court concluded the history and ubiquity of legislative prayers make it clear that the authors of the Constitution (did not see the prayers as) an establishment of religion, Harvey said.
Tradition should never trump constitutional principle and relying on the actions of the First Congress as evidence of how we should interpret the Constitution only makes sense if we assume the First Congress and members of that Congress were infallible, Weaver argued.
The discussion was sponsored by the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Rochester Lawyers of the Federalists Society and Monroe County Bar Association.