This Note addresses whether, and to what extent, the four factors proposed by the Fourth Circuit, and subsequently rejected by the Sixth Circuit, are an appropriate test of the constitutionality of a legislative prayer practice under United States Supreme Court jurisprudence. Part II explores the background of the Establishment Clause and legislative prayer. The Supreme Court has placed significant emphasis on the history of legislative prayer in evaluating modern prayer practices, as seen in its two cases Marsh v. Chambers and Town of Greece v. Galloway. Part III examines the first two circuit court decisions to consider challenges to local legislative prayer in the wake of Town of Greece. Though factually identical, the Fourth Circuit in Lund and the Sixth Circuit in Bormuth arrived at opposite holdings concerning the constitutionality of the contested prayer practices. Part IV assesses each of the Lund four factors, comparing the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning in favor of these factors with the Sixth Circuit’s explanation for why they are an inaccurate measure under the Supreme Court’s guidance. In considering both the constitutionality and applicability of these four factors in legislative prayer challenges, this Note ultimately concludes that until the Supreme Court articulates a clearer test, these factors provide a valuable tool for lower courts.
Mary Nobles Hancock
May 24, 2019