The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

Federal Court to Hear Arguments in Case Challenging City-Sponsored Prayer in Greece, N.Y.


A federal court will hear oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit
challenging the use of sectarian invocations before meetings of the
Greece, N.Y., Town Board.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit on
behalf of two town residents last year. The residents say the
near-unanimous use of sectarian prayers sends a message of exclusion to

"This case is a good reminder of why government needs to stay out of
the prayer business," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director
of Americans United. "Inevitably, some people are made to feel like
second-class citizens."

The Greece Town Board has a longstanding practice of inviting clergy
to open the Board's monthly meetings with a prayer. The Town Board
does not require that the prayers be inclusive and non-sectarian. As a
result, over the past decade, the vast majority of the prayers have
been Christian.

AU's lawsuit asks the court to declare these activities
unconstitutional and to prohibit the Town Board from sponsoring
sectarian prayers at future meetings.

Americans United has asked the court for a summary judgment
declaring the town's prayer practice unconstitutional. The town is
being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal
group. Its attorneys are asking that the case be dismissed.

Lynn said the legal action raises important issues that the court should address.

"This is not an assault on religion or Christianity," Lynn said.
"We're simply asking this community to be respectful of religious

"The repeated use of Christian prayers sends the message that Greece
is an officially Christian community," Lynn added. "The Constitution
does not allow this."

AU Assistant Legal Director Richard B. Katskee will argue the Galloway v. Town of Greece
case. The argument will begin at 3 p.m. at the Kenneth B. Keating
Federal Building, 100 State Street, Rochester, N.Y., before U.S.
District Judge Charles J. Siragusa.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.