Supreme Court Considers Government Prayers

(NBC News) The future of prayer in government meetings around the country could change as a result of a Supreme Court case heard today.

Justices are being asked to determine whether prayers at the start of town meetings violate the constitution.

Government bodies and lower courts have struggled with where the fine line between church and state lies, for years.

Now for the first time in three decades, the Supreme Court is once again addressing the issue.

It's prayers like this one, at the start of city board meetings that have made the town of Greece, New York the focus of the Supreme Court.

Two women, one who's Jewish and the other an Atheist say they were made to feel "second class" when they didn't participate in the mostly-Christian prayers.

"I have a hundred eyes looking at me and questioning what's going on and thinking I'm being disrespectful," said Susan Galloway who brought the suit against the town of Greece.

Attorneys for Galloway and Linda Stephens didn't ask for the prayers to stop, but instead argued the prayers should exclude language that could be offensive to people of other faiths.

"It doesn't matter who is selected to give the prayer - it matters what the prayer giver says," said attorney Douglas Laycock.

Justices worried about censoring prayer.
Justice Antonin Scalia said, "people with religious beliefs ought to be able to invoke the deity."

And justice Anthony Kennedy questioned," now the government is editing the content of prayers."

Pastor Patrick Medeiros, has offered prayers at Greece town meetings.

"As a minister it's my prayer the justices will uphold my constitutional right," said Medeiros.

The town has opened the prayer tradition to any faith and doesn't require people to participate according to attorneys for the town.
"It is not permissible for the courts to regulate the content of prayer," said Greece town attorney Thomas Hungar.

Justices recognize the subject is sensitive and there's no easy answer.

A decision is expected by late June.

The comments from the justices indicated they weren't happy with either side's arguments and were trying to find some kind of middle ground.

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