"The history of prayers offered in connection with legislative deliberation in this country makes clear that a legislative body need not affirmatively solicit a court-mandated variety of different religious faiths-- from inside and outside the borders governed by the legislative body-- in order to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause," said Justice Department lawyers' in their amicus brief.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a "legal ministry" based in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Greece Town Board, saying the Supreme Court has upheld the practice of government bodies "to acknowledge America's religious heritage and invoke divine guidance and blessings upon their work."
"A few people should not be able to extinguish the traditions of our nation merely because they heard something they didn't like," said Brett Harvey, an attorney for the group. "Because the authors of the Constitution invoked God's blessing on public proceedings, this tradition shouldn't suddenly be deemed unconstitutional."
Stephens realizes the stakes are high for her community and for the law as a whole. But on a personal level, this legal fight has been tough.
"I've received something of a backlash, both Susan and me," the retired librarian said. "Threatening letters, some vandalism to my property, things like that. The prayers, and all the controversy, it makes you feel like an outcast, like we don't count in our town."
The case is Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway (12-696). A ruling is expected by early summer.