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Justices consider New York town’s prayer practice

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, which begins its sessions with an invocation to God, considered Wednesday whether a town in upstate New York had crossed a constitutional line in opening its Town Board meetings with mostly Christian prayers.

Justice Elena Kagan, asking the first question, wanted to know whether the Supreme Court could open its sessions with an explicitly Christian prayer, one acknowledging, for instance, “the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.” Such prayers were offered before Town Board meetings in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester.

Thomas G. Hungar, a lawyer for the town, said a 1983 Supreme Court decision allowed explicitly Christian prayers in legislative settings, although perhaps not in judicial ones.

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