The U.S. Supreme Court in Town of Greece v Galloway addressed the constitutionality of opening a city commission or council meeting with prayer.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s syllabus described Town of Greece’s practice as follows:
Since 1999, the monthly town board meetings in Greece, New York have opened with a roll call, a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer given by clergy selected from congregations listed in a local directory. While the prayer program is open to all creeds, nearly all of the local congregations are Christian; thus, nearly all of the participating prayer givers have been too.
On May 5, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion Town of Greece. The lessons from the Supreme Court’s Opinion in Town of Greece are:
- Prayer at the beginning of legislative meeting of a municipality does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause;
- The “content of the prayer is not of concern to judges provided there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one or disparage any other, faith or belief”;
- Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based upon the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation;
- So long as the municipality maintains a policy of non-discrimination by making reasonable efforts to identify all the congregations located within its borders and representing that it welcomes prayers by any minister or layman who wishes to give one, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact John C. Schrier at (231) 722-5401.
9.15.12 Parmenter O’Toole is proud to announce that John C. Schrier has been selected for inclusion in the 2012 Michigan Super Lawyers list in the practice area of Public Sector Government/Cities/Municipalities. Only five percent of Michigan attorneys are chosen each year.
Super Lawyers selects attorneys based on three distinct phases. The first step includes a statewide nomination process where attorneys nominate their peers based on what they have personally observed. The Super Lawyers researchers then evaluate candidates based on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Lastly, candidates receive a “blue ribbon” panel review by practice area.
“I’m honored that attorneys representing municipalities would nominate me,” said Schrier. “I’m fortunate to have been well-trained by Tom Johnson, Mike Knowlton, and the late Tom O’Toole, all former partners at Parmenter O’Toole. I have also had the pleasure of working with a number of very fine municipal employees, officials and attorneys.”
About John C. Schrier – John C. Schrier’s practice emphasizes public sector law and employment issues for public and private entities. He is the City Attorney for Muskegon (2002-present, after serving as Assistant City Attorney from 1990-2002), North Muskegon (1995-present), Montague (1993-present), Roosevelt Park (2012-present) and acts as the primary legal counsel for the Village of Shelby and other public sector clients of the firm. John also advises employers on a variety of employment issues relating to discipline and discharge, civil rights, wage and compensation, and other employment issues.
The Municipal Legal Briefs, a publication of the Michigan Municipal League, recently published an article written by Parmenter O’Toole attorney John Schrier, with assistance of summer clerk Colleen Healy, concerning a municipality’s ability to indemnify another party. The article, “Municipal Indemnification: The Evolving Case Law,” outlines how the courts have expanded a municipality’s legal ability to indemnify a third party in certain circumstances. Here is a copy of the article if you are interested in reading it.
Parmenter O’Toole’s Public Sector practice group is prepared to assist municipalities on a variety of issues, including public finance issues. For assistance call John Schrier at (231) 722-5401.