In doing so, they cited three cases extensively.
First, the court acknowledged that legislative prayer was deemed constitutional in the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Chambers.
The justices in that case found that delegates in America’s First Congress “did not consider opening prayers as a proselytizing activity or as symbolically placing the government’s ‘official seal of approval on one religious view.”
The Second Circuit continued, though, saying the prayer in question in Marsh was nonsectarian, or did not advance any one belief.
As mentioned above, a majority of the prayers in Greece are sectarian.
The second case the Second Circuit frequently cited was Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, in which the Supreme Court disallowed the use of a city’s holiday crèche display.
In other words, the Supreme Court was underlining the Establishment Clause which states the government cannot endorse one religion over another.
The third case, Lee v. Weisman, concluded the government cannot demand prayer-givers give nondenominational prayers.
Do you see the rub here?
A town can have prayers at legislative meetings, but those prayers cannot amount to a promotion of one religion nor can the town ask the prayer-giver to keep it generic/nondenominational.
So where does that leave Greece?
According to the Second Circuit, on the wrong side of the Constitution.
In plain talk, the judges said, “Greece, because you don’t invite clergy from outside the town, because you call the prayer-giver “Chaplain of the month,” because most of these prayer-givers push Christianity onto public, ‘the town’s prayer practice identified the town with Christianity in violation of the Establishment Clause.’”
Again, the Second Circuit could not point to one part of the policy and declare it unconstitutional.
They shot down the policy as a whole.
The three-judge panel ended its ruling with a suggestion: “These difficulties may well prompt municipalities to pause and think carefully before adopting legislative prayer.”
The way I read that: “Greece, silence is golden. You may want to start your board meetings with it.”
Adam Chodak, Anchor/Reporter