Supreme Court observers were startled on Monday, Nov. 11, when an amicus (friend of the court) brief was filed by God. Calling herself “an interested party” in the matter of Town of Greece vs. Galloway, God dropped off short, handwritten brief at the court chambers Monday and vanished into thin air before reporters could interview her.
The court was in session to consider whether it was proper for the five members of the Greece Town Board, all Republicans including a Little League coach and a lay church minister, to open their sessions with a prayer.
The Supreme Court has allowed prayers before legislative bodies for decades, but two residents of Greece, a Monroe County canal town turned suburb and home to 96,000 souls, felt that a line had been crossed.
They filed a lawsuit claiming that the prayers at their town’s meetings were overwhelmingly and explicitly Christian.
One of the claimants is Jewish, the other is an atheist; both have been told by town officials that if they didn’t like the prayers they could either leave or cover their ears. Not liking either option, they chose to sue, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found in their favor. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide what to do.
People who study the Supreme Court find it unlikely that they will outlaw prayers to open legislative sessions, but they might be drawing some fine lines around the practice. Usually, we look to professors like Laurence Tribe, of Harvard University, or Jeffrey Toobin, of CNN and The New Yorker, for learned views on these types of subjects. In this matter, it appears that the nine justices have heard from a higher authority.
The Syracuse New Times has obtained a copy of the God brief, which is written in lovely cursive with the distinctive tone of a cranky old man. In part, it reads:
“Leave me out of this. Every day, I listen to prayers from all sorts of fools asking me to provide them with wisdom. They seek my wisdom while trying to decide how far to stretch a sewer line. They ask my guidance as they struggle with whether to buy a new school bus. The other day, I had a group calling on me to show them my will in the matter of whether to retire their old fire truck. What do I know about fire trucks? I send fires and floods. Why would I care about fire trucks? Can’t you people do anything on your own?”
Some religious observers felt that God was particularly embarrassed that he was being dragged into the Greece Town Board dispute. The good people of Greece have had to watch in recent years as their police chief was given jail time for evidence tampering and their town assessor was convicted of fraud. And then there was the tawdry matter of the town supervisor, who happened to be the chap who initiated the whole praying-at-meetings thing, being discovered in a long-term relationship with a married woman. That one came to light after the woman in question was stabbed to death by her son.
That just seemed kinda icky, and God had had enough.
“You people seem to be pretty good at screwing things up without me,” the brief states. “You pray for wisdom, and you bow your heads and mutter about lifting up your hearts to me, then you go back to tearing each other’s throats out. I know where this is headed: You’ll just make a mess and say it must have been my will. Grow up. You’re on your own.”