Should opening prayers for a specific religion be allowed at government meetings?
That question is at the center of a case heading to the Supreme Court, and several Virginia lawmakers say the decision could have a far-reaching impact.
Town of Greece vs. Galloway is the case being heard by federal justices. It revolves around whether opening prayers at government meetings can frequently refer to a specific deity, such as Jesus Christ.
Del. Ben Cline (R-Amherst Co.), along with Del. Steve Landes (R- Weyers Cave), Sen. Emmett Hanger (R - Augusta Co.), Del. Dickie Bell (R - Staunton), and Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) all recently came out in support of opening prayer.
They say if opening prayers are dumbed down to moments of silence, for example, than freedom of religion is being impacted.
Since 1999, town leaders in Greece, New York, have begun their town hall meetings with a prayer.
However, in 2008, two town members filed a law suit against the town board. They said the opening prayers were led by Christian clergy members on frequent occasions, and therefore, the town was promoting Christianity.
The case has made it's way through several courts, including the US Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last year, justices in the federal court ruled in favor of the suit, saying in the majority opinion, ".....the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint."
Town leaders in Greece have appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.
Del. Ben Cline, who oversees parts of Augusta County, has come out in support of Greece.
As a practicing Christian, he says it's important to hold a prayer before public meetings.
"We want people to continue to be able to pray to their God and for us to participate in that prayer from our own faith," he explained. "We need divine guidance as we make decisions that affect the public. Our Founding Fathers meant for us to be a nation free to express it's religious beliefs. We want to embrace freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
Virginia is one of 18 states where leaders have come out in support of opening prayer.
The Supreme Court starts their next term in October. As of this writing, no exact date has been set for this case's hearing.
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