Greece Town Board holds first meeting since Supreme Court ruling on prayers at town hall meetings

Updated: 05/05/2014 11:25 PM
Created: 05/05/2014 11:10 PM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams

It is a victory for the town of Greece. The nation’s highest court says prayers can continue at town hall meetings. That’s just how officials started their meeting Monday. 

It’s been a long legal battle and it finally came to an end Monday. The decision from the Supreme Court means prayers to start town board meetings does not violate the constitution. It all began when two women, one Jewish and the other atheist, filed a lawsuit saying they were made to feel second class when they didn’t participate in the mostly Christian prayers. The ruling was a close one, only passing by a vote of five to four. Justice Anthony Kennedy says the prayers are ceremonial and designed to “acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent” and not to exclude or coerce non-believers.

It's a decision that will have an impact across the entire country.

Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich said, "My worry was not so much for the decision. My worry was for America and our right to freely speak and I thought that was something that was in danger. I'm glad this decision came down the way it did."

Linda Stephens, filed lawsuit, said, "It's disappointing, but there are some good things that came out of this. It was an educational experience for the whole country."

Susan Galloway, filed lawsuit, said, "I also believe it got dialog going and it should go and it should continue because our country is changing and we're becoming more diverse.”

People say this is not about religion or prayer, it’s about freedom. That freedom was exercised during a Greece Town Board meeting Monday evening. 

Fr. Peter Enyan-Boardu, St. John the Evangelist Church, said, “Thank you Lord for being our source of guidance today and always.”

Greece Town Council Member Andrew Conlon says he’s proud Greece has played a role in this pivotal decision; however, he wants people to know anyone can pray before the board.

Andrew Conlon, Greece Town Board, said, “Being a predominantly Christian community, it just happens to be that most of them are Christian, but again anybody in the community is welcome to it.”

New councilmember Diana Christodaro applauds the high court decision. 

Diana Christodaro, Greece Town Board, said, “I was not sitting on the town board when this all began. I was just appointed in February, so I'm honored to be a part of this moment today.”

The people we talked to coming out of the Greece Town Library agreed with the high court ruling.

Carla Prescott-Harris, Charlotte resident, said, “I understand that people have different religions, but I think the message gets across because we all serve one king, one God.”

Jan Fredericks, Greece resident, said, “This is the United States. We are based on expression, freedom of religion, freedom of gathering.  We should be able to pray. If you choose to say all you want to do before a meeting is have a moment of silence, you should be allowed to do that too.”

The town board is encouraging anyone who wants to pray to simply call and get on the list. There are no rules or restrictions.

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