Monroeville, PA, just outside the Steel City, has a prayer problem. That is to say, the Monroeville City Council needs to jettison their Council prayer. The Tribune Review reported today
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says that reciting the Lord’s Prayer before Monroeville Council meetings is unconstitutional and will consider suing the municipality if it doesn’t end the practice.
Sara Rose, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Pittsburgh office, said a complaint from Monroeville resident Joshua Allenberg has been reviewed, and the organization has determined that Monroeville Council is violating the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, which prohibits government from preferring one religion over another.
It is remarkable that after the Greece v Galoway decision municipalities have not gotten the message of what is allowed and what is not.
As Attorney Sara Rose put it, there are two problems. It is the same prayer each time and it given by Council:
… what Monroeville is doing is they’re having the mayor give an explicitly Christian prayer at every meeting and asking everyone in the audience to rise,” Rose said.
Their agenda reminds participants to mute their mobile phones. I think it is time for the council to mute the prayer which is a double no-no, making it a no-no-no-no!
Unfortunately, prayer is not an uncommon practice in western PA. For example, we have discovered that it is only a pastor or priest who gives an invocation to the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners each month:
As FFRF notes, the Greece v. Galloway (2014) ruling by the Supreme Court argues
… that city councils or county boards that invite local clergy members to deliver the opening prayers should strive to be inclusive of all religions and non-religion. The Court noted in the opinion at the outset:
The town (Greece, NY) at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. Its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.
To repeat, any minister, any layperson, but not the council members, may give an invocation, and invocation givers should include atheists. Is your community following these standards? If not, consider stepping forward and breaking the chain and to support the separation of state and church.