The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 6 will hear its first legislative prayer case in 30 years, along with a case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirements on religious grounds.
The town of Greece, New York, with a population of close to 100,000, has been holding Christian prayers, typically conducted by local ministers, at town meetings since 1999. But in a unanimous 2011 decision, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the prayer practice was unconstitutional.
The Town of Greece v. Galloway case is the first legislative prayer case the Supreme Courts have taken since the Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, which upheld the constitutionality of government funding for chaplains.
In the 1989 case County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, which dealt with religious displays on public grounds, the high court built on the March decision but noted that March had found legislative prayer constitutional only because the chaplain in question had removed references to “Christ,” thus avoiding a sectarian prayer that would have associated the government with a particular religion.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Greece v. Galloway could determine whether or not prayer before official public meeting will be permitted and set the guidelines in which all cases involving religion will be decided.
Another case with a similar controversial issue is Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, in which the Christian-owned company argues that using certain types of birth control violates their religious beliefs.
“If the Hobby Lobby wins, the next case will be exemption of gay marriage,” said Ian Millhiser, senior constitutional policy analyst for the Center of American Progress.
Hobby Lobby is one of the 40 lawsuits filed across the country asking federal courts to exempt the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement.