Mullin v. Sussex County

AU's Role: 
AU's Involvement Began: 
June 2008

For years, the Sussex County Council opened its public meetings with a Council member reciting the Lord's Prayer. Americans United wrote to the County Council in June 2008, and again in April 2009, asking the Council to stop opening its meetings with the Lord's Prayer because the Constitution prohibits legislative prayers used to advance one religion. The County did not respond to either letter.

On June 30, 2011, we filed a lawsuit in federal court in Delaware, on behalf of four Sussex County residents, including a member of the League of Women Voters and a Lutheran minister. In August, the County filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which we opposed. In December, we moved for a preliminary injunction, which asked the trial court to prohibit the Council from opening meetings with Christian prayers while the case is proceeding. 

Read our opening brief and reply brief in support of our motion for a preliminary injunction.

On May 15, 2012, the trial court ruled in our favor, denying the County's motion to dismiss and granting our motion for a preliminary injunction. The court concluded that we were likely to prevail in arguing that "the Lord's Prayer delivered at the Council meetings [is] a distinctly Christian prayer," and that "the Council's practice of opening each meeting with a recitation of this distinctly Christian Lord's Prayer violates the Establishment Clause because it constitutes government endorsement of the Christian faith."

The case is continuing in the trial court.