The letter arrived in Sue Galloway’s mailbox with no return address and a brief message warning Galloway, who is Jewish, to “be careful.” It was signed “666.”
Across town, Linda Stephens, an atheist, received a similarly worded letter, along with a verbal suggestion from a neighbor that she leave town, because “nobody here likes you.”
The women’s perceived sin? Challenging the Town Board’s long-standing practice of opening monthly meetings with a prayer, a policy the Supreme Court upheld in May in a 5-4 ruling that has done little to calm the debate over what place prayer should have in local politics.
Political leaders in Greece, a quiet, middle-class suburb of Rochester, say the ruling affirmed that there is nothing wrong with what they have been doing since 1999, and with what goes on in scores of state legislatures, Congress and the Supreme Court itself. “It’s like you do the Pledge of Allegiance, and you do a prayer,” said William Reilich, the town supervisor, a position that serves as head of the board. “This is supposed to be a very light greeting. It’s not a service.”