Tuesday, July 09, 2019

11th Circuit: County's Invocation Policy Violates Establishment Clause

In Williamson v. Brevard County, (11th Cir., July 8, 2019), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the method used by the Brevard County, Florida Board of County Commissioners to select individuals to deliver pre-meeting invocations violates the Establishment Clause.  The Board's formal resolution provides:
Secular invocations and supplications from any organization whose precepts, tenets or principles espouse or promote reason, science, environmental factors, nature or ethics as guiding forces, ideologies, and philosophies that should be observed in the secular business or secular decision making process involving Brevard County employees, elected officials, or decision makers including the Board of County Commissioners, fall within the current policies pertaining to Public Comment and must be placed on the Public Comment section of the secular business agenda. Pre-meeting invocations shall continue to be delivered by persons from the faith-based community in perpetuation of the Board’s tradition for over forty years.
The court said in part:
In this case, Brevard County has selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems. Brevard County’s process of selecting invocation speakers thus runs afoul of the Establishment Clause.
Florida Today reports on the decision.