Nov 14, 2012

A Maryland town council’s refusal to drop Christian invocations at its meetings could lead to a lawsuit, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has warned.

The Brentwood Town Council begins each of its meetings with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer led by Mayor Roger E. Rudder or council members. Such governmental preference for one faith clearly violates the U.S. Constitution, Americans United asserts.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, “Council meetings should welcome residents of all faiths as well as those who follow no spiritual path at all. It is both unconstitutional and unfair for government to favor one religious tradition over others.”

Americans United attorneys wrote to Brentwood officials on April 16 and again on Sept. 13 to insist that the prayer policy be revised. The church-state watchdog group urged the council to end prayers altogether or, at a minimum, move to nonsectarian invocations as required by the federal courts.

Since AU’s initial protest, the council agenda was changed to call the invocation a “moment of silence and/or prayer,” but sessions still begin with the Lord’s Prayer.

Today Americans United filed a public records request with the city government seeking any documents related to the prayer policy.

Said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, “I hope the city realizes that this is a serious constitutional problem that needs to be fixed. The public interest will not be served by a time-consuming and expensive lawsuit about this matter.”

Khan said Brentwood residents who are concerned about the local government’s promotion of religion should contact her or AU Staff Attorney Ian Smith at or call (202) 466-3234.