The Case:  A lawsuit filed in 2008, claiming that ceremonial prayers delivered at city council meetings violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and promote Christianity to town residents.

The Impact:  A decision in favor of those challenging the city could affect religious observances at public events and gatherings across the United States. Prayer before school board meetings, high school athletic events, local charity events and many more could be threatened.

A small town in northeast New York is at the center of what legal scholars say could be one of the biggest religious freedom cases in decades, as the Supreme Court prepares to open its 2013-14 term next week.

The case, the Town of Greece (N.Y.) v. Galloway, involves the town council’s practice of beginning its meetings with a prayer offered by a volunteer “chaplain of the month” — Christian and non-Christian — and has attracted friend-of-the-court briefs from religious, secular and civil liberties organizations. The surprising decision to take the case and how it rules could offer new insights on how far the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is prepared to go to redefine the role of religion in the public square.

A decision in favor of those challenging the city could affect religious observances at public events and gatherings across the United States. Prayer before school board meetings, high school athletic events, local charity events and many more could be threatened.

“If the court were to rule for Galloway, it would have to abandon prior precedent, it would have to abandon hundreds of years of practice going back to the founders of our country, and put in jeopardy the many practices and events that reflect our religious heritage throughout the country,” said David Cortman, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy organization supporting the town of Greece.