Sep 12, 2012

The Sussex County (Del.) Council has agreed to permanently stop reciting the Lord’s Prayer before its meetings, Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced today.

The council agreed yesterday to discontinue the sectarian invocation as part of a settlement in Mullin v. Sussex County.

In May, U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark wrote that the council’s longstanding practice of opening all of its meetings with a Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer probably violates the Constitution “because it constitutes government endorsement of the Christian faith.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, expressed satisfaction with the council’s decision.

“I am glad to see that the council will stop reciting the Lord’s Prayer,” Lynn said. “Government should never favor one faith over others. All citizens should feel welcome at governmental meetings, regardless of their views about religion.”

Americans United filed the lawsuit in June 2011 on behalf of four Sussex County residents – the Rev. John Steinbruck, Barbara Mullin, Julie Jackson and Dr. William O’Connor. All plaintiffs in the lawsuit attend council meetings and were opposed to the governmental body’s promotion of one religious perspective and disrespect of other faiths.

AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan also praised the settlement.

“The Constitution does not permit government to open meetings with prayers that are sacred to Christians only," Khan said. “I am pleased that we were able to amicably resolve the case."

The settlement is contingent upon court approval.

Along with Khan, the case has been litigated by AU Associate Legal Director Alex Luchenitser and Delaware attorney David L. Finger.