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New York town awaits ruling on moment of prayer

By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press

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GREECE, N.Y.: At their most recent monthly meeting, the five members of the Greece Town Board took their seats, gaveled to order and moved quickly through the regular opening agenda:

Roll Call. (Check.)

Pledge of Allegiance. (Check.)

Moment of Prayer. (Check.)

Leaders of the town of 96,000 outside Rochester say they have no plans to shake up the longtime routine unless, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court orders them to.

A ruling could come any day now on whether the town violated the Constitution with its opening prayers because nearly every one in an 11-year span was overtly Christian. This month’s was no exception — a Baptist minister delivering a head-bowed, eyes-closed, 40-second invocation.

“Lord, we ask that the decisions that are made will be made with a lot of thought and with a lot of wisdom from you,” said the Rev. Mike Metzger of First Bible Baptist Church. “In Jesus’ name, I pray.”

Greece’s expeditious, matter-of-fact Christian prayer, with no mention of those who believe differently, is at the heart of a case with potentially wide-ranging impact: Governmental bodies from Congress and state legislatures to school boards often pause for prayer before getting down to business.

But if this town — which is neither rich nor poor and evenly split politically — has been swept up in this potentially divisive question, there has been little outward evidence. No signs, pickets, billboards or bumper stickers.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s being talked about at the grocery store, the coffee shop,” said Town Supervisor William Reilich, who characterized the initial lawsuit as the work of out-of-town interests with a broader anti-public prayer agenda. “It wasn’t like residents rose up against this.”

People around town expressed varying views of the issue.

“I prefer not to have it if some people feel uncomfortable,” said Jim Callahan, a 65-year-old sales rep.

“Prayer should definitely be accepted and is very much needed,” countered Aaron Rebis, 21, a pizzeria employee. “If we get rid of it, we’re going to be in big trouble.”


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