An Appeals Court Will Soon Decide if Michigan County’s Christian Prayers Are Illegal

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners in Michigan doesn’t understand how invocations work.

They deliver it themselves, which they can’t do. The invocations are always Christian, which constitutes government endorsement of religion. And when Peter Bormuth said all this at a 2013 meeting, they dismissed his concerns. One Commissioner literally turned his back on Bormuth.

When Bormuth filed a pro se lawsuit (in which he represents himself) against the County, things got worse:

A Commissioner refers to Plaintiff Peter Bormuth as a “nitwit”

… one of the Commissioners publicly referred to him as a “nitwit.” Another warned against allowing invited guests to give invocations for fear that they would express non-Christian religious beliefs. Still another described the lawsuit as “an attack on Christianity, and… an attack on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Eventually, a magistrate judge said that summary judgment should be granted in Bormuth’s favor, but a District Judge ignored the recommendation and ruled in favor of the County. The case is currently in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed an amicus brief Wednesday in Bormuth’s defense reiterating all the problems with the Commissioners’ actions: They advance Christianity and coerce religious participation by asking the audience to bow their heads during the prayers and mocking anyone who disagrees:

“There are more than 160,000 people residing in Jackson County, and I’m sure not all of them are Christians,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Jackson County’s commissioners must adopt a more inclusive policy for invocations and stop pressuring its citizens to participate in unwanted prayers.”

This ruling should be favorable to Bormuth. Then again, it should’ve been favorable at the District Court level, too, so you never know.

If this stands, the Courts are basically saying it’s okay for local government officials to promote Christianity at meetings. It would be a disaster.

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