A small town in upstate New York is at the center of what legal scholars say could be one of the biggest religious freedom cases in decades, as the Supreme Court prepares to open its 2013-14 term next week.
The case, the Town of Greece (N.Y.) v. Galloway, involves the town council’s practice of beginning its meetings with a prayer offered by a volunteer “chaplain of the month” — Christian and non-Christian — and has attracted friend-of-the-court briefs from religious, secular and civil liberties organizations. The surprising decision to take the case and how it rules could offer new insights on how far the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is prepared to go to redefine the role of religion in the public square.
A decision in favor of those challenging the city could affect religious observances at public events and gatherings across the United States. Prayer before school board meetings, high school athletic events, local charity events and many more could be threatened.