Hey, guys, remember back in May? When the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which they said the Town of Greece, New York was free to open their board meetings with sectarian prayer?
I know, I know, a lot has happened since then. ISIS, Ferguson, presidential golfing. But it turns out that the Court's decision wasn't the last word on this.
Sure, their decision is final. And they found in favor of the Town. But consider the majority ruling in that case. Remember, it didn't go as far as the extreme conservative wing (Thomas, Scalia) wanted it to. Kennedy's opinion permitted the prayers only so long as they were non-discriminatory and didn't proselytize.
In the ensuing weeks and months, the Town received numerous requests to give the invocation prior to their meetings. In fact, it was kind of big news when an atheist was slated to give a secular invocation on July 15. (The news the day afterward, once the largely unremarkable invocation was given, was less pervasive.)
Now, though, complaining of a continuing influx of requests, the Town has adopted a formal policy on their pre-meeting invocations. And brace yourselves: they may very well violate Kennedy's proscriptions.
You may not be surprised to learn that the new rules, despite the clear language of Kennedy's opinion, have been described as potentially discriminatory against the irreligious. They instruct the Town Clerk to compile a list of religious assemblies within the Town, and to annually invite each assembly to volunteer a representative to give an invocation. The invocations will be assigned to the volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis each calendar year.
They do provide a concession to Kennedy in allowing residents of the Town who attend religious assemblies outside the town to petition the Clerk to include their out-of-town church/coven/whatever on the official List. And the desire to restrict the invocations to people representing actual town residents makes sense and doesn't go against the Court's decision.
But the rules seem to make no allowance for residents of the Town who do not attend religious assemblies at all, as the vast majority of atheists do not. As a result, it would seem that the rules, by requiring membership in an organization that "regularly meet[s] for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective", explicitly discriminates against those without a religion.
And that, according to the consensus interpretation of the Court's decision, is impermissible. (And if it ain't, it oughta be.) In fact, Gregory M. Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called it an "enormous bait and switch" -- the Town got the Court to sign off on their legislative prayer practice because it wasn't discriminatory... and then turned around and changed the practice to be discriminatory.
Read the Town's new rules for yourself: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/...