Saturday, October 14, 2017

House of Representatives Ban On Secular Invocations Is Constitutional

In Barker v. Conroy, (D DC, Oct. 11, 2017), the D.C. federal district court rejected challenges to rules of the U.S. House of Representatives which do not allow an atheist to deliver a secular invocation as a guest chaplain. Plaintiff who is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the practice after his request for inclusion as a guest chaplain was denied.  The court rejected plaintiff's Establishment Clause, Equal Protection Clause and RFRA  claims, saying in part:
Despite Mr. Barker’s repeated attempts to characterize his claims as not challenging the constitutionality of legislative prayer, the reality is that his request to open the House with a secular invocation, which resulted in the denial of his request to serve as a guest chaplain, was a challenge to the ability of Congress to open with a prayer...
The court also rejected a claim that the policy violates the constitutional prohibition on religious tests for any "office or public trust under the United States," concluding that the position of guest chaplain is not an office or position of public trust.