Thursday, April 23, 2015

County Council Prayer Policy May Limit Invocations To Local Clergy

In Coleman v. Hamilton County, Tennessee, (ED TN, April 22, 2015), a Tennessee federal district court upheld the prayer policy of the Hamilton County, Tennessee Commission.  The policy allows any eligible member of the clergy in the county to deliver an opening invocation. Plaintiff argued that the Policy is unconstitutional because it only allows invocations to be delivered by members of the clergy who are part of an eligible and established assembly or congregation and makes no provision for other individuals to deliver the invocation. The court rejected the argument, saying:
Plaintiffs’ argument is clearly flawed and flies in the face of established Supreme Court precedent. In Marsh, the Supreme Court expressly authorized legislative bodies to appoint and retain a single person to give invocations at the beginning of official meetings. To find that each and every individual person under the jurisdiction of a particular legislative body has the right to give an opening prayer or invocation at the body’s meetings would effectively overrule not only Marsh, but an entire body of federal case law approving of the constitutionality of chaplains and non-discriminatory legislative prayer policies.
An ADF press release announced the decision.