The case concerning prayers, Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696, came from Greece, N.Y., a town near Rochester. For more than a decade starting in 1999, the Town Board began its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Town officials said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer.
In practice, the federal appeals court in New York said, almost all of the chaplains were Christian.
“A substantial majority of the prayers in the record contained uniquely Christian language,” Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. “Roughly two-thirds contained references to ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘Your Son’ or the ‘Holy Spirit.’”
Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of the government establishment of religion. The appeals court agreed. “The town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint,” Judge Calabresi wrote.