Attorney General Chris Carr announced last week that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld the practice of lawmaker-led prayer. The decision comes on the heels of repeated complaints from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation about local eleced officials leading prayers at the beginning of meetings.
In April, the state of Georgia and 21 other states filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Jackson County, Michigan’s position in Bormuth v. County of Jackson. The Sixth Circuit sitting en banc upheld the constitutionality of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ practice of starting its meetings with prayer.
“By upholding the Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ practice, the Sixth Circuit affirmed that lawmaker-led prayer is consistent with this country’s longstanding tradition of legislative prayer – a tradition that also has a great deal of history in our state – and that such prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “We are very pleased with this outcome and will continue working to protect this practice.”
The Sixth Circuit’s en banc opinion, which can be found here, opened with the following:
“Since the founding of our Republic, Congress, state legislatures, and many municipal bodies have commenced legislative sessions with a prayer. Consonant with this historical practice, defendant Jackson County Board of Commissioners opens its public meetings with a prayer that is generally solemn, respectful, and reflective. Plaintiff Peter Bormuth claims that this custom violates the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution because the Commissioners themselves offer the invocations. We disagree and affirm the judgment of the district court.”
*Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia also signed the amicus brief, which was authored by Michigan.