Town of Greece v. Galloway
Description: In 2008, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the town of Greece on behalf of local residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, who claim that continued Christian prayer at the opening of town meetings is unconstitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the town argue that the practice of deliberative bodies to invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work has always been constitutional.
ADF to America: Public prayer is OK, secularist threats empty
ADF attorneys represented the town of Greece, N.Y. in the lawsuit. The letter is being sent to hundreds of communities who have been targeted for maintaining the American tradition of opening public meetings with uncensored prayers.
“Since the Supreme Court has again affirmed that Americans are free to pray, government groups and organizations should not be bullied by activists who say otherwise,” said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “In America, we tolerate a diversity of opinions and beliefs; we don’t silence people because we don’t like what they say. Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced. Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”
The ADF letter explains that “Despite concentrated efforts by activist groups to have prayers silenced or purged of distinctly Christian references, the Supreme Court has—for the second time now—declared that opening prayers do not run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
“Communities shouldn’t be forced to forfeit their freedom to appease someone who doesn’t like what a prayer-giver says or believes,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “Opponents of prayer want to use government to attack our freedom, but the Constitution established our government to protect our freedom. The Supreme Court’s decision to protect public prayer effectively removed an avenue of attack employed across the country by those whose true intent was to eliminate public invocations.”
In the letter, ADF offers governments and organizations help crafting their invocation policies, as well as free legal assistance if these policies are legally challenged.
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David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom. He has been practicing law since 1996, and currently supervises a team of over 40 attorneys and legal staff who specialize in constitutional law, focusing on religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Cortman has litigated hundreds of constitutional law cases including two victories at the U.S. Supreme Court. In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, he secured a 7-2 victory that overturned Missouri’s denial of a religious school’s participation in a state funding program. Cortman also argued Reed v. Town of Gilbert, securing a 9-0 ruling that prohibits the government from discriminating against religious speech. A member of the bar in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and the District of Columbia, he is also admitted to practice in over two dozen federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Cortman obtained his J.D. magna cum laude from Regent University School of Law.
Brett Harvey serves as senior counsel and vice president of allied legal affairs with Alliance Defending Freedom. He has assisted state and local governments on issues involving public invocations and religious expression, and he has successfully represented clients in defense of their First Amendment freedoms and the right to life. Harvey and the Allied Legal Affairs team he leads focus on recruitment, professional engagement, and integration of allies into ADF’s advocacy efforts, including coordinating amicus efforts at state supreme courts, circuit courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Harvey earned his J.D. from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in Georgia in 1995. He is admitted to the bar in the states of Georgia, Florida, Colorado, and Arizona. Harvey has also been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court; the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 6th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Circuits; and the U.S. District Court in Colorado. He joined Alliance Defending Freedom in 2000 and has been practicing law since 1995.