The paper discusses the correctness of the holding by the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit in Galloway v. Town of Greece, 681 F.3d 20 (2d Cir. 2012) and reversing the decision of the District Court that a Town Board’s practice of beginning its meetings by an opening prayer violated the Establishment Clause and postulates that the decision is correct on the facts of the case. The Establishment Clause is contained in the First Amendment to the constitution providing for religious freedom and prohibiting Congress from making any law for the establishment of any. In other words, there is no the state cannot mandate the observance of a particular religion practice.
The plaintiffs challenged the Town Board’s practice before the District Court and the court rejected the claim through a summary judgment in the Respondent’s favor holding that the Establishment Clause did not per se foreclose denominational prayers and that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the town’s prayer practice had the effect of establishing the Christian religion. The District Court rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge by holding that there was no credible evidence that town employees intentionally excluded representatives of particular faiths with a view to establish Christianity and that the Establishment Clause did not per se ban denominational prayers. The Circuit court noted that between the relevant period of 1999 and June 2010, out of the 120 of the 130 recorded prayers, approximately tw thirds had Christian references and the remaining one third also invoked such Biblical theistic concepts as “God of all creation,” “Heavenly Father,” and God’s “kingdom of Heaven” during which the gathered people did certain acts like bowing their heads, sayi…
…nton v. Caldor (1985), a Connecticut law allowing a holiday for observance of Sabbath was held to be against the Establishment Clause under the Lemon test as its primary effect was to promote Judaism which observed Sabbath.From the Galloway decision as well as the other precedents cited above, the litmus appears to be the effect and not the intent of a particular law or act to determine its validity vis-a-vis the Establishment Clause. It is for this reason that the Circuit Court stated that it Establishment Clause cases like Galloway can be fact-intensive which defy exact legal formulas. Therefore, the broad principles identified above are to be applied to the particular facts of each case. For the reasons elaborated by the court, the Circuit court in Galloway therefore appears to be in order.
Galloway v. Town of Greece, 681 F.3d 20 (2d Cir. 2012)