Will 2nd Circuit uphold right of NY town to allow prayer before public meetings?

ADF attorney available to media following oral arguments Monday
Friday, September 09, 2011

ADF attorney sound bite(s):  Kevin Theriot

WHO: ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster
WHAT: Available for media interviews after hearing in Galloway v. Town of Greece
WHEN: Monday, Sept. 12, immediately following hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EDT
WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, 500 Pearl St., 9th Floor, Ceremonial Court Room, New York

NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster will be available for media interviews Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit following his oral argument at a hearing concerning the right of the Greece Town Board to open public meetings with prayers offered by invited clergy. On behalf of two residents who object to such prayers, Americans United for Separation of Church and State appealed last year’s federal court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the town’s practice.

“Since this nation’s founding, public meetings have been opened with prayer. There is no legal reason why a town’s citizens today should be denied this right,” said Oster. “This practice has always been lawful in America, and the district court rightly affirmed its constitutionality in this case last year. Secularist groups might not be happy with this, but an invocation offered according to the dictates of the giver’s conscience is not an establishment of religion.”

In February 2008, AU filed a lawsuit against the town of Greece on behalf of residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, who alleged that the opening invocations at town meetings are unconstitutional. ADF attorneys responded to the lawsuit on the town’s behalf, arguing that allowing government entities to acknowledge America’s religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work has always been constitutional.

In August 2010, a federal court issued a decision affirming the right of the Greece Town Board to open public meetings with prayer--a ruling AU quickly appealed to the 2nd Circuit. ADF attorneys defend the decision, arguing that AU’s original demands to water down prayers so that they do not mention a specific deity violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by placing government in control of the content of prayer.

Laurence Behr of Buffalo, one of more than 2,000 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit Galloway v. Town of Greece, which was originally filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

ADF is defending prayer invocations nationwide, including the invocations policy of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina that is also under attack by AU in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union.

  • Fact sheet on the case
  • Pronunciation guide: Oster (OH’-stir)

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.