The Supreme Court, which asks for God’s protection before every public session, will settle a dispute over prayer in the halls of government.

The case being argued at the court Wednesday involves prayers said at the start of town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. It is the court’s first legislative prayer case since 1983, when the justices said that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment.

But the federal appeals court in New York held that the town crossed a line and violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, and with the replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor with Justice Samuel Alito in 2006, the court has been more open to religion in public life. The case may serve as a test of the ongoing viability of the decision in the 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers.

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