WASHINGTON – In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court held via a 5-4 majority that the Establishment Clause applies to all religions except Christianity.
In the case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Court addressed the question of whether saying a prayer before town council meetings violates the First Amendment principle of separation of church and state.
From 1999 to 2008, the upstate New York town held close to 100 meetings at which a prayer was delivered, but not a single prayer in that time was led by a non-Christian, despite a sizable presence of people from various faiths in the community.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy—a Catholic—opined that the town’s practice “comports with our tradition. We’ve always held the one and only true religion, Christianity, to a different standard. The less palatable and generally peculiar denominations such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Atheism simply don’t deserve the same protection.”
Kennedy wrote that “The town at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. If anyone from one of these other so-called faiths had wanted to say a Christian prayer, they would have been welcomed to do so, which is why the town’s policy passes as constitutional.”
In his concurring opinion, Justice Scalia, also a Catholic, wrote that “in instances like this, it is important to understand what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. Was John Adams a Buddhist? Was George Washington a Muslim? I think not. Only when our nation’s people accept the absurdity of these fairy-tale religions and their place in our society will they stop making these mindless, frivolous, and patently anti-Constitutional arguments.”
After the ruling was published, Scalia was seen leading the other five Roman Catholic members of the Court in prayer in his chambers.