May 2017 Church & State - May 2016

AU Files Brief In Michigan Legislative Prayer Case

  AU admin

Americans United in late March filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a legislative prayer case in Michigan.

AU is supporting the case of Peter Bormuth, a Druid who opposes the policy of Jackson County Commissioners to open their meetings with exclusively Christian prayers.

A three-member panel of judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 15 ruled 2-1 in Bormuth’s favor: “The Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ affirmative exclusion of non-Christian prayers puts one faith, Christianity, in a privileged position. …(I)t ensures that only Christians will hear prayers that speak to their religious beliefs because the government has singled out Christian prayer as uniquely able to solemnize these meetings. The affirmative exclusion thus advances one faith over others.”

But days later, the full 6th Circuit Court vacated the panel’s ruling and ordered the case to be reheard before the entire bench of 15 judges.

AU, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a brief to argue that the commissioners’ practice of not only delivering exclusively Christian prayers themselves, but also of disparaging Bormuth when he objected to the practice, is unconstitutional because it advances one religion over others and coerces the public to participate in religious exercises.

Oral arguments in the case, Bormuth v. County of Jackson, are scheduled for June 14, and AU hopes to participate.

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