In May of this year, the Supreme Court heard the case of Greece v Galloway. The suit, brought by a group of local citizens of Greece, New York, was an attempt to stop the practice of beginning each council meeting with a prayer offered by an informal "chaplain of the month." The citizen group (Galloway) cited the separation of church and state.
Arguing in favor of the opening prayer, lawyers for the town council stated that the invocation was not exclusively Christian, but was open to all religions. They stated that even a non-believer would be welcome to make an opening statement as long as it had some positive or inspirational purpose. Lawyers for the citizen's group pointed out that, despite what Greece's attorneys stated, according to public record, the prayers were not all-inclusive, and even the title "chaplain of the month" denoted a member of the Christian faith. They offered evidence that the opening prayers were offered almost exclusively by members of the Christian clergy who "called on Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit to guide the council's deliberations." The council's lawyers responded that anyone could "apply" to offer the opening prayer and that were open to hearing from other religious groups.
The Supreme Court's conservative Justices swallowed the council's argument and, by a vote of 5-4, concluded that "ceremonial prayer" is permissible. That decision overturned an earlier and unanimous appellate court's ruling.
Fast forward to this past week in Greece, New York. Taking advantage of the Supreme Court's decision, the town council there adopted a formal invocation policy that makes mock of the inclusiveness their lawyers argued in their case just this past spring. The new policy restricts opening remarks to "assemblies with an established presence in the Town of Greece that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective."
According to what I have been able to find, there are several Catholic churches, an Episcopalian church, Baptist churches and churches belonging to the Congregationalists and United Church of Christ. And, while there are established Jewish synagogues and even Buddhist temples in the area around Greece, none are actually within Greece's town limits, which would seem to exclude their members from offering an opening prayer at any Greece town meeting, even if the member is a town resident. Further, since non-believers would naturally lack "established" meeting places where "religious perspective(s)" were discussed, it would seem that this new policy also excludes their participation.
As the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, "They said they're open to anybody. Now (that they have the Supreme Court on their side) they're not open to anybody. It's really a scam...They only want religious people--frankly they only want Christians--to participate. This is a step backward."
Not only is it a step backward, it is the exact opposite of what the Greece council's lawyers argued just four months ago--it makes their entire case before the Supreme Court a lie.
How proud these "Christians" must be.