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2 July 2018 at 10:49:18 AM
This morning I printed out the ACLU decision regarding the US Supreme Court declining to take on the 4th US Circuit of Appeals Case Lund v Rowan Co. This case is specifically about county commissioners offering prayer from the dais. The Appeals court ruled that the practice is unconstitutional. (in fact the full court of justices ruled this). Rowan County appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and that declination came in the other day. Thus, the decision that commissioners court elected officials offering prayer is unconstitutional stands. People of good will may agree or disagree with the decision, but the fact is that the practice by Rowan County has been ruled, by a court, to be unconstitutional.
That brings us to Somervell County (in Glen Rose, Texas). The practice of having prayers led by a county commissioner started when Danny Chambers was elected Somervell County Judge. There were no prayers at meetings before this. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in May 2014 that one could have prayer before government meetings but only if the prayers are not given by elected officials, don't discriminate against any faith (to include lack of faith atheists) and do not coerce people into prayer. As Town of Greece v Galloway said
It is an elemental First Amendment principle that government may not coerce its citizens "to support or participate in any religion or its exercise". ... The principle audience for these invocations is not, indeed, the public, but lawmakers themselves, who may find that a moment of prayer or quiet reflection sets the mind to a higher purpose and thereby eases the task of governing. The District Court in MARSH described the prayer exercise as an 'internal act' directed at the Nebraska Legislature's 'own members'. .. Toe be sure, many members of the public find these prayer meaningful and wish to join them..
The analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for oppobrium,or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person's acquiescence in the prayer opportunity. ... Although board members themselves stood, bowed their heads, or made the sign of the cross during the prayer, they at no point solicited similar gestures by the public. Respondents point to several occasions where audience members were asked to rise for the prayer. These requests, however, came not from town leaders but from the guest ministers, who presumably are accustomed to directing their congregations in this way and might have done so thinking the action was inclusive, not coercive.... In the general course legislative bodies do not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing constituents to prayer they would rather not hear and in which they need not participate. ... board members and constitutuents are 'free to enter and leave with little comment and for any number of reasons'. ..
So, what has Somervell County Commissioners Court been doing?
Latest Blog Post by salon -Video- Somervell County Commissioners Court Special Sessions (2) Dec 23 2019
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