Friday, March 29, 2013

11th Circuit Upholds City's Prayer Policy

In Atheists of Florida, Inc. v. City of Lakeland, Florida, (11th Cir., March 26, 2013), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld against an Establishment Clause challenge the invocation policy formally adopted by Lakeland, Florida City Commission's Resolution 4848 shortly after this lawsuit was filed challenging an earlier informal policy.  The formal policy calls for inviting clergy from all local congregations to volunteer to deliver an invocation prior to the formal opening of city council meetings, and choosing volunteers largely on a first-come, first-serve basis. The court said in part:
[W]e conclude that AOF has failed to demonstrate that the adoption of Resolution 4848 resulted in proselytizing or advancing the Christian religion over all others solely because the speakers who were selected included sectarian references in their prayers. We also conclude that we lack jurisdiction to decide AOF’s challenge to the Lakeland City Commission’s pre-March 2010 speaker selection practice ... because that issue is moot...
The court's conclusion is similar to that of the 9th Circuit in a case handed down the same day. (See prior posting.)