Susan Galloway's Supreme Court Church-State Fight Began With Christmas Carols

Discovered Need for Jews To Protect Boundaries as Child

getty images

By Ron Kampeas

Published November 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

The concern going into the oral hearing was that the court would substantially expand the definition of permitted prayer in a 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers. That decision, based on a case related to prayers in the Nebraska Legislature, has been widely interpreted as allowing nonsectarian prayer in legislative bodies.

The Town of Greece is arguing that the ban on prayers should be limited to those that proselytize or defame other faiths. If the Supreme Court agrees, sectarian public prayer would be permitted.

Jewish organizations were heartened that during oral arguments, the lawyer for Galloway and Stephens, Douglas Laycock, moved the court to consider a different issue: Whether a publicly attended town board meeting should be considered as equivalent to a legislature.

In legislature cases, the argument goes, the affected parties — the lawmakers — willingly entered a system with existing rules and traditions that could include prayer. In a town board meeting, the affected parties are ordinary citizens going about their daily business.

“[The Marsh case] is adults elected by their constituents to go into a legislature where there’s a history of prayers being offered at every session,” said Michael Lieberman, the ADL’s Washington counsel. “This is different. The town council is the place where ordinary citizens must go to get a zoning variance or complain about cable service.”

For Galloway, it was a thrill to see Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan challenge the Town of Greece’s lawyer, Thomas Hungar, by imagining a hypothetical in which the court proceedings had been preceded by the same benediction recited at Greece’s board meetings.

“Suppose that as we began this session of the Court, the chief justice had called a minister up to the front of the courtroom, facing the lawyers, maybe the parties, maybe the spectators,” Kagan said. “And the minister had asked everyone to stand and to bow their heads in prayer and the minister said the following: He said, we acknowledge the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength from His resurrection. Blessed are you who has raised up the Lord Jesus. You who will raise us in our turn and put us by His side. The members of the Court who had stood responded amen, made the sign of the cross, and the chief justice then called your case. Would that be permissible?”

“I don’t think so, your honor,” said Hungar, who then attempted to distinguish between legislative prayer and prayer in a courtroom.

Galloway believes that Kagan seized on that account of a Town of Greece prayer opening because she also is Jewish and has faced similar incidents in the course of her career.

“We’ve all had experiences that have been difficult,” Galloway said. “These are things common to Jewish people.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.