For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, email@example.com
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington, D.C., June 10, 2014)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a summary judgment motion in its case against the prayer practices of the Board of Commissioners of Carroll County, Maryland. The motion seeks a permanent injunction of the Board’s current legislative prayer practice, nominal damages and declaratory relief.
Unlike other legislative prayer practices, such as the one upheld in the recent Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, which invite religious leaders and citizens from all faiths to participate in the legislative prayers, Carroll County commissioners themselves insist on delivering the prayers before Board meetings. All five commissioners are Christian and not one prayer has been delivered by a non-Christian. They frequently direct these prayers to the public rather than to the Board, and many of the prayers proselytize Christianity.
“Proselytizing and advancing one religion over all others is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” said Monica Miller, an attorney for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By offering prayers for the purpose of proselytizing and advancing Christianity, rather than solemnizing Board meetings, the Board is transgressing the Establishment Clause requirements articulated by the Supreme Court.”
“Public officials are not in the business of offering Christian prayers,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This unconstitutional practice sends the message that the millions of individuals who are good without a god, including those in Carroll County, are unwelcome at their own local government meetings.”
A federal judge had placed an injunction upon the board’s prayer practices, but the injunction was lifted after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Town of Greece v. Galloway. The memorandum in support of the motion extensively distinguishes Carroll County’s practice from those upheld in Town of Greece and argues that these differences render the practice unconstitutional. As such, the memorandum argues the practice should be permanently enjoined. Plaintiffs also demand damages and a declaration that the County’s practice was clearly unconstitutional both prior to, and after the Town of Greece decision.
A copy of the motion can be viewed here.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.