Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Judge Says Lord's Prayer Unconstitutional in Delaware

U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark granted a preliminary injunction stopping the Sussex County Council from reciting The Lord's Prayer before the meeting opens because he agrees with the atheist plaintiff that the act violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.

For background, read Atheists Sue to Stop Lord's Prayer in Delaware and also read Prayer in America: Hidden Faith, or Public?

UPDATE 6/28/12: Citizens won't remain silent - keep praying aloud at meetings

-- From "Judge silences Sussex County Council's prayer" by James Fisher, The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.) 5/16/12

The court "is likely to conclude 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," Stark wrote in his opinion. "The fact that The Lord's Prayer has been the only prayer recited at the beginning of Council meetings for over six years is likely to be found to demonstrate that the Council gives Christianity an unconstitutionally preferred status."

"Whatever happened to freedom of speech?" Councilman Sam Wilson said when called for comment Tuesday. "I don't know how we're gonna get around it. But we're gonna have to find a way."

Alex Luchenitser, an attorney with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he is "very pleased with the court's decision." His group represents [local] plaintiffs Barbara Mullin, Julie Jackson, John Steinbruck and William O'Connor.

Stark's injunction takes effect June 15 but doesn't end the lawsuit. The council would violate the court order if it began its scheduled June 19 meeting with the the Lord's Prayer.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Court halts Lord's Prayer at council meetings" by Ron MacArthur, Cape Gazette - Bethany Beach Wave 5/16/12

The court has issued a 30-day stay of the preliminary injunction in the hope a settlement can be reached out of court. “It is hoped that during this period the parties may confer – perhaps with the assistance of this court's judicial officers as mediators – and attempt to agree upon how to preserve the council's practice of opening its meetings with a prayer but to do so in a manner that is consistent with the United States and Delaware constitutions,” wrote Stark.

Stark said courts across the country have grappled with the determining the constitutionality of legislative prayers, but he noted courts have upheld a legislative body's practice of inviting community religious leaders to deliver prayers of any type – including sectarian prayers – with a variety of religious expressions.

According to court documents, it's unclear exactly when the practice of opening council meetings with The Lord's Prayer began. Audio recordings on the county's website indicate the practice dates back to at least March 28, 2006

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.