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Greece prayer plaintiff reacts to ruling

Greece, N.Y. -- The latest Supreme Court ruling on church-state separation is a victory for a town council in New York state that regularly opens its meetings with prayers.

The court, in a 5-to-4 ruling today, said those prayers don't violate the Constitution -- even if they routinely emphasize Christianity -- as long as there's no effort to proselytize or to denigrate non-Christians.

"I wasn't surprised. I hope that it would go this way, obviously, but I think this is a much bigger than the Town of Greece," said Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich. "(It's) much bigger than our board meeting. It's a freedom of speech issue, and I'm happy that it's upheld."

Susan Galloway, who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she was disappointed in the ruling.

"It was definitely freedom of religion and freedom from religion," said Galloway. "I hope that people will realize from this whether you win or lose that you need to stand up for what you believe in, that that's important and that nobody has the right to make you feel like a second-class citizen."

The ruling was consistent with one from 1983, when the court upheld an opening prayer in the Nebraska legislature and said prayer is part of the nation's fabric, not a violation of the First Amendment.

The Obama administration had sided with the town of Greece, where nearly every council meeting in an 11-year span opened with prayers that stressed Christianity. The town has few non-Christian places of worship.

But in a dissent, the court's four liberal justices wrote that the prayers violate the "norm of religious equality." Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the case is different from the one involving the Nebraska legislature because the town meetings "involve participation by ordinary citizens," and because the prayers were mostly sectarian.

 

 
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