Religious Freedom

Apparently, the Last Time the Supreme Court Upheld Prayer at Public Meetings Was Not Enough

We’re experiencing a bit of déjà vu.

In 2014, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had the privilege of representing Greece, New York when it was sued because citizens volunteered to open public meetings in prayers reflecting their personal beliefs. Town of Greece v. Galloway made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it ruled in favor of the Town of Greece, stating that uncensored prayer before public meetings is constitutional.

But now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has taken it upon itself to issue a ruling that censors the prayers of elected officials. The target this time around is Rowan County, in North Carolina. 

Rowan County opens each public meeting in prayer, allowing the commissioners to pray or lead a moment of silence on a rotating basis. Rowan County’s prayer policy permits each commissioner to determine what they would like to do during the allotted time. The policy does not force the commissioners to pray in a certain tradition, to a certain God, or even to pray at all. And no one is required to participate.

ADF, along with allies David Gibbs of The National Center for Life and Liberty, Ken Klukowski of First Liberty, and others are asking the Supreme Court to hear this case.

And we’re back to where we started – asking the Supreme Court to confirm, once again, that uncensored public prayer is constitutional.

As the Supreme Court noted in its Town of Greece decision:

  • “Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.”

  • “As a practice that has long endured, legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions… That a prayer is given in the name of Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah, or that it makes passing references to religious doctrines, does not remove it from that tradition.”

There is nothing unconstitutional about opening a public meeting with prayer. In fact, it is an American tradition with deep roots. And as Americans, we should be able to respect the religious traditions of others. Just because someone doesn’t like the way another prays does not mean the prayers should be silenced.

Sadly, that’s a foundational principle that seems to be lost on many.

We pray that the Supreme Court will once again take up this case to continue to uphold the tradition of prayer before public meetings.


To stay up to date on this case and the other cases ADF is working on at the Supreme Court, sign up for our updates.
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Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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