Appeals Court Rules County Commissioners Can’t Exclude Some Religions From Presenting Invocations

    Updated: July 11, 2019 at 10:36 am EST  See Comments

    Originally Published on This Site

    ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia has ruled that commissioners for one county in Florida were violating the Establishment Clause by “picking and choosing which religions to invite and which to reject” for the invocation presented at the start of each public meeting, and by preferring Christianity “to the exclusion of other religions.”

    “Four of the seven commissioners, including three of the five who voted on the resolution [at issue], stated affirmatively that they would not allow representatives of certain religions to give an invocation. One said he would not allow a Wiccan, and two more said they probably would not. A Rastafarian would have received the same set of responses,” wrote Judge Stanley Marcus, nominated to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton, on behalf of the unanimous three-judge panel.

    “Two commissioners said they would not allow a polytheist to deliver an invocation, even though they had each said they would allow a Hindu,” it noted. “Finally, these same four commissioners would bar a deist from delivering an invocation. … A bar on deism would exclude Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and many others among our nation’s founders from the opportunity to deliver an invocation before the Brevard County Board of Commissioners.”

    The court ruled that as the “selection procedures as practiced take religious beliefs into account, … favoring some creeds over others,” Brevard County has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination “on the basis of religion,” and has “violated the Establishment Clause.”

    As previously reported, the matter began in 2014 when commissioners voted unanimously to deny a

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