Updated: 10/30/2013 9:22 AM
Created: 10/29/2013 11:10 PM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams
A Town of Greece case that questions the use of prayer at town meetings goes to the supreme court next week, but Tuesday night, people got a chance to play judge and jury right here in Rochester.
It’s the first time since 1999, that a local case will be heard by the United States Supreme Court. The five year old case centers on the kind of prayer that can open a government meeting.
A New York appeals court ruled a Greece Town practice of inviting Christian clergy to open the meeting with Christian prayers was unconstitutional. Greece now wants the nation’s highest court to decide.
The public was invited to Nixon Peabody law firm downtown, to learn more about this important case during a discussion at a local law firm.
This issue has been debated since Susan Galloway challenged the practice.
During Tuesday’s discussion, both sides of the argument were represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Both were trying to shed light on the case.
Brett Harvey, of the Alliance Defending Freedom said, when people pray, they pray to some concept of god that's specific to them and we believe the constitution protects their right to do that.”
Harvey, senior counsel with ADF, works for the firm that will defend the Town of Greece. Heather Weaver is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, which argues prayer can be perceived as part of a government meeting.
“This case is not about the individual right to pray or preach the gospel, it is about the right of the individual to be free from the government's official prayer or preaching,” said Weaver.
But what do people think?
Presbyterian minister, Gordon Webster, suggests it's a good way to gain an appreciation for many faiths.
“We do have many religious traditions and we can in fact find way to show respect within the religious traditions, among the religious traditions and I think that can extend to the government.”
Greece resident, Gary Pudup, compares this issue of religion to race.
“Amongst the founder and framers, slavery was a time honored tradition. Tradition is not a good reason to continue doing something,” said Pudup.
The Supreme Court has until next June to hand down a decision. However, a decision is expected sometime in the spring.