For the time being, a federal judge agrees that prayer before
Hamilton County, Tennessee meetings can continue -- setting the
stage for a possible trial later on.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit
against the county because it opens government meetings with
prayer. The atheist group's request for a preliminary injunction to
end the prayers has been denied.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior
counsel Matt Bowman notes one of the complaints is that some
of the prayers mention Jesus.
"Just because a secular
group claims to be offended by hearing a public prayer does not
mean that the prayer has to be silenced," he asserts. "Those who
seek to [end] invocations made in a Christian manner essentially
argue that the Founders violated the Constitution as they were
But the atheist group's degree of discontent goes even
"The challenge in this case was that no prayer at all should be
permissible before the Hamilton County Commission meetings," the
attorney reports. "The First Amendment certainly allows public
officials to acknowledge our nation's heritage. The practice of
opening public meetings with prayer has always been lawful in the
history of this country, and it's part of our nation's religious
County commissioners will continue to offer prayer from various
religious groups, pending the outcome of the case.