Opinions Relating to Orders - 2022

City of Ocala v. Rojas

JUSTICE THOMAS, dissenting from denial of certiorari.

In 2014, a shooting spree in Ocala, Florida, left several children injured. In response, the city of Ocala’s police department worked with community leaders to identify suspects and witnesses. Leaders of the religious community suggested holding a prayer vigil in the town square to bring the community together and encourage potential witnesses to cooperate. The chief of police agreed and posted a letter on the department’s public Facebook page asking citizens to attend a prayer vigil for the victims.

At the vigil, uniformed police chaplains appeared onstage alongside community religious leaders, all singing and praying for the injured children. Respondents, several atheists who voluntarily attended the vigil with full knowledge of its religious content, sued the city and several officials under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983. They alleged that they felt uncomfortable and unable to participate at the vigil because of its Christian themes, and that the city had violated the Establishment Clause. The District Court granted summary judgment to respondents, holding that they had Article III standing and that the vigil violated the Establishment Clause under the Lemon test. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602 (1971). A