First Liberty Institute received a victory when the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the county commissioner’s invocation in Jackson County, Michigan. The court determined that there was no constitutional violation with the offering of an invocation from a county commissioner. However, a similar case in Rowan County, North Carolina received the exact opposite ruling from the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
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VICTORY! Court Rules In Favor of County Commissioner’s Invocation
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed the decision of a federal district court judge.
That’s significant because that judge found no constitutional problem with the county commissioners of Jackson County, Michigan providing invocations on a rotating basis prior to their commission meetings. In Jackson County, the county commissioners do what most local lawmakers do: they start their meeting with the pledge of allegiance and then have an invocation to further solemnize the occasion. But, a local activist filed a lawsuit to put an end to the practice, claiming he was offended by the invocation.
Well, the Supreme Court has twice spoken to this.
Back in 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the high court gave approval to invocations before state legislative bodies. Then, in 2014, in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the court approved citizen-led invocations before city council meetings. Both decisions noted America’s lengthy tradition of opening public meetings with prayer.
But, the really interesting part of this story is the circuit split it creates.
First Liberty also represents the county commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina who have a very similar practice.
In July, the Fourth Circuit disapproved of commissioner-led invocations.
The Supreme Court usually wants to resolve differences of opinion between circuit courts, so it might take a trip to the Supreme Court before these cases are fully resolved.
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