On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Town of Greece has adopted a new policy for pre-board meeting prayers. The new policy states in part that “It is the intent of the Town Board to allow a private citizen to solemnize the proceedings of the Town Board. It is the policy of the Town Board to allow for an invocation, which may include a prayer, a reflective moment of silence, or a short solemnizing message, to be offered before its meetings for the benefit of the Town Board to accommodate the spiritual needs of the public officials.”
The new policy (available here) already has its critics. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values, says that the Town’s new policy appears to limit those who may give prayers to members of “religious assemblies.” According to CFI, the Town has established an “assemblies list” of individuals it may select to give pre-board meeting religious prayers, but only allows leaders of religious assemblies to be included in the list, and excludes leaders of secular groups. The new policy states: “The Assemblies list shall be compiled using reasonable efforts, including research from the Internet, to identify all ‘churches,’ ‘synagogues,’ ‘congregations,’ ‘temples,’ ‘mosques,’ or other religious assemblies in the Town of Greece. All religious assemblies with an established presence in the Town of Greece are eligible to be included in the Assemblies List, and any such religious assembly can confirm its inclusion by specific written request to the Clerk.” This controversy, however, comes in the wake of the Town opening its July 2014 board meeting with a secular invocation delivered by an atheist (prior post here). To read more about the CFI’s concerns, click here.
We have also been tracking how local governments have responded to the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece. Here are some recent highlights.
–In response to allegations of discrimination by the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners (Pensacola, Florida), one board member states:
When you come to bring your Wiccan, Atheist, or Klingon invocation — I’ll politely excuse myself from the room and simultaneously invite anyone in the audience who wants to join me in a Christian invocation out back. You can give your invocation to those that want to hear it and stay in the room. Nobody will prevent you from your free exercise of your religion, just as I would expect for you not to attempt to block me from exercising my constitutional right to my Christian belief via a Christian invocation outside the back door.
More on this story here.
–An atheist quotes from “Harry Potter” when giving a secular invocation at a Sioux Falls City Council meeting in South Dakota. Read more here.
–A councilman in Concord, California says he would refuse to allow Satanists to give pre-council meeting prayer because “Satan is the devil.” The Contra Costa Times reports.
–The Brevard County Board of Commissioners in Florida has voted to ban atheists from giving religious invocations before local meetings. More on this story here.