Over the weekend, a federal court struck down a Florida county’s practice of denying atheists, humanists and other non-theists the opportunity to offer invocations at the start of the county commission’s meetings.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled the policy of Brevard County’s Board of County Commissioners to allow only monotheistic, overwhelmingly Christian invocations violated both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions – namely by the government showing favoritism for certain faiths.
The full 15-member 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that a Michigan county’s policy of having its county commissioners open their meetings by delivering exclusively Christian prayers was constitutional, reversing the earlier decision of a three-judge panel.
Americans United is supporting the students, parents, employees and community members who are asking a federal appeals court to rule unconstitutional a California school board’s practice of opening public meetings with Christian prayers and proselytizing during those meetings.
It will be a busy week for Americans United attorneys as they crisscross the country to stand up for religious freedom before federal appeals courts in two distinct cases.
Today, AU Legal Fellow Andrew Nellis will be in Seattle to tell the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals why it was unconstitutional for a high school football coach in Washington State to pray with students on the football field at the end of football games.
Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that county commissioners in Jackson County, Mich. – all of whom are Christian – can no longer deliver prayers that are exclusively Christian prior to their meetings.
Americans don’t agree on much, but one thing pretty much everyone can agree on is that Congress is not a very popular institution right now. A recent poll found that only 8 percent of us think Congress is doing a good job.
Americans United’s Legislative Department works with members of Congress and knows that there are lots of good men and women serving in that body. So what accounts for this?
For years, the Forsyth County Board of Supervisors invited local clergy to deliver sectarian prayers at Board meetings; most of the prayers were Christian. In March 2007, the plaintiffs Americans United and the ACLU of North Carolina challenged the Board’s prayer policy in federal court. In January 2010, the trial court ruled that the prayer policy was unconstitutional and had the effect of affiliating the County with Christianity.
Communities across the country continue to squabble over what they should do about prayers before government meetings.
The latest flashpoint is Eau Claire County, Wisc., where the Board of Supervisors has voted 23-4 to replace its invocation with a “moment of reflection.”