State Attorney General Greg Zoeller says Indiana will likely play a leading role in a U.S. Supreme Court involving government prayer.
In 2005, a U.S. District Court ruled the Indiana General Assembly’s practice of praying before each session was unconstitutional.
A circuit court later reversed the ruling, saying those who challenged the state’s practice did not have legal standing to do so. It did not weigh in on the question of constitutionality, which is one reason Attorney General Greg Zoeller says his office wrote a legal brief encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case in which a New York town’s use of prayer before board meetings is being challenged.
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up the case, which Zoeller says could affect larger legal issues.
“Really, have we used the Establishment defense – saying that we shouldn’t try to establish a state-sanctioned religion – to limit people’s free exercise?” Zoeller asks.
Reba Boyd Wooden, the Indiana executive director for the atheist organization Center for Inquiry, says the General Assembly’s daily prayer before each session marginalizes those who do not practice religion.
“The religious people seem to think that when you try to grant any kind of respect or equality to people of other religions than their own or particularly people who have no religion, that it’s infringing on their religious freedom and that’s not true,” she says.
Zoeller says because Indiana has been involved in a court case surrounding government prayer before, his office will play a major role in leading a group of states in a brief to the Supreme Court.