Less than a year after becoming the first Hindu American group to file an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the United States Supreme Court, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) continued its legal campaign with another brief in support of a petition for writ of certiorari. The case, Simpson v. Chesterfield County, involves legislative prayer. While the HAF’s first brief opposing a Ten Commandments display on public grounds in Texas was already scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court, a writ of certiorari is a request to the Court to review a case. The latest HAF brief was supported by numerous Hindu organizations and co-signed by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Association of American Indian Affairs as well as the Interfaith Alliance.
“References to Hinduism and Hindu Americans, written on behalf of practicing Hindus, finally appeared in the annals of Supreme Court jurisprudence with our brief last year,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., legal counsel for HAF. “We believe the issues raised in this second brief are of even greater importance to not only Hindu Americans, but all Americans.”
The Board of Supervisors of Chesterfield County, Virginia has been opening its meetings with invocations given by local clergy who volunteer for the task. This practice began after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1980’s that legislative bodies could begin their sessions with non-sectarian prayer without violating the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. Cynthia Simpson, a member of the Wiccan faith who wanted to lead prayer, was told that she could not pray at the meetings because she did not practice a religion "within the Judeo-Christian tradition." The Wiccan faith is based on a belief in unity with the earth and the idea that God is not separate from human.