When it comes to prayer at local government meetings, here’s how the law seems to be working following the Supreme Court’s 2014 Greece decision: City councils can invite local residents to deliver religious (or non-religious) invocations. Or they can have a moment of silence. Or they can do away with all that nonsense and get to work.
What they absolutely cannot do is only have Christian prayers at meetings or have a council member deliver those prayers.
In Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the city council is doing both. And now the ACLU says it will file a lawsuit:
What’s really stunning is how in denial council members are about all of this. They seriously think they’re in the clear even though the Mayor is reciting the prayer at the beginning of their meetings.
Sara Rose, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Pittsburgh office, said a complaint from Monroeville resident Joshua Allenberg has been reviewed, and the organization has determined that Monroeville Council is violating the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, which prohibits government from preferring one religion over another.
“We are preparing a letter to send to the Monroeville Council asking them to stop saying the Lord’s Prayer before their meetings,” Rose said. “If they agree to do that, then it’s resolved, and if they don’t, then we will consider filing a lawsuit in federal court.”
[Municipality solicitor Bruce] Dice has said case law allows council to open meetings with the prayer, referring to the Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway, which upheld a New York town’s practice of starting meetings with a prayer.
Dice has previously disagreed, saying the same Supreme Court ruling allows the Lord’s Prayer.
“It says in the Greece case you can use the word ‘Jesus,’” he said. “You can use spiritual words.”
Dice not knowing how to read or interpret the law doesn’t qualify as an excuse here. If a citizen wanted to recite the Lord’s Prayer as an invocation, he’s welcome to, but if the city council wants to allow that, they better brace themselves for messages from atheists, Satanists, and other non-Christians.
Hopefully, the council members will get proper legal advice in time to apologize to the ACLU and avoid an unnecessary lawsuit that will only hurt the taxpayers they represent.
(Thanks to Michael for the link)