In an important win for church-state separation, Judge William D. Quarels, Jr. of the U.S. District Court of Maryland issued the preliminary injunction today to stop sectarian prayers held before meetings of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners. The American Humanist Association alleged that the practice of permitting Commissioners to deliver prayers that reference Jesus Christ or Savior during county meetings violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling can be viewed here.
“When government officials frequently invoke Jesus or Savior in government meetings, they exploit the legislative prayer opportunity permitted by Marsh in violation of the Constitution,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Non-Christians, who are necessarily excluded by such sectarian Christian prayers, feel like religious outsiders and second-class citizens in their own community.”
Judge Quarels ruled that Carroll County officials are prohibited “from invoking the name of a specific deity associated with any specific faith or belief in prayers given at [Board] meetings” for the duration of the lawsuit. The Board may continue to give non-sectarian invocations at the beginning of meetings.
"This is a major victory for the separation of church and state," said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. "Invocations at public meetings must not be sectarian, and that rule was clearly broken by the county here."
Written By: American Humanist Association
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