Too Many ChristiansJun 12, 2012
Last month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the New York town of Greece was endorsing Christianity because too many of the prayers opening the town council meetings were, well, Christian. The court was quick to say that prayers at government meetings are constitutional, they just can't be too Christian. The ruling is similar to a Fourth Circut decision last year (which applies to Virginia) that found the North Carolina Town of Forsyth had just too many Christian prayers at the opening of their meetings. In that bizarre ruling, the court found that when more than four-fifths of the prayers are specific to one religion, it is too much. The court didn't give a number, however, for the town to shoot for. That number is anybody's guess. It's just not four-fifths.
Now, the populations of each town are, you guessed it, predominently Christian (maybe even more than four-fifths, gasp!). And, both towns had prayer policies that allowed for anyone of any faith, including athiests, to "pray" at the meetings. Such an open forum wasn't good enough for the courts, however, because just too many Christians kept showing up to pray. The Second Circut, in fact, chastised the town of Greece for inviting only clergy from, well, Greece. They should have reached out to other communities to find more diversity, the court said.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Both decisions do legal summersaults to conclude that while the open prayer policies are not unconstitutional on their face, the results of the policies are unconstitutional simply because more prayers are Christian. Of course, the same logic underlies both decisions — that by allowing the free excerise of Christianity the government is actually endorsing Christianity — so we have to prohibit both.
As a result, the United States continues to become more and more like . . . Greece.