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Brevard County Commission Violated Constitution over Prayer Procedure

July 8, 2019 - 3:00pm
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

A federal appeals court Monday ruled that the Brevard County Commission has violated the U.S. Constitution by using a discriminatory procedure to select the people who give invocations at commission meetings.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 45-page opinion, made clear that government bodies can open their meetings with prayers. But it said the Brevard County Commission has improperly discriminated and that commissioners “may not categorically exclude from consideration speakers from a religion simply because they do not like the nature of its beliefs.”

“In this case, Brevard County has selected invocation speakers in a way that favors certain monotheistic religions and categorically excludes from consideration other religions solely based on their belief systems. Brevard County’s process of selecting invocation speakers thus runs afoul of the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution),” said the opinion, written by Judge Stanley Marcus and joined by judges Britt Grant and Frank Hull. “As it stands, members of the Brevard County Board of Commissioners have plenary authority, on a rotating basis, to invite whomever they want to deliver invocations, with no consistent standards or expectation of inclusiveness. From their testimony, it is abundantly clear that most if not all of the commissioners exercise their discretion in a way that discriminates among religions based on their beliefs, favoring some but not all monotheistic and familiar religious sects over those faiths that fall outside the ‘mainstream.’ ”

The Atlanta-based appeals court issued the ruling in a case filed by atheists and secular humanists, with plaintiffs including individuals and the Central Florida Freethought Community, the Space Coast Freethought Association and the Humanist Community of the Space Coast. A U.S. District judge also had ruled against the county.

Opening prayers are common at government meetings across Florida, from the state House and Senate to city councils and county commissions. Monday’s ruling said invocations were offered at 195 Brevard County Commission meetings from Jan. 1, 2010, through March 15, 2016, with all but seven given by Christians or containing Christian content. Six were given by Jewish rabbis while one was described as “generally monotheistic.”

The ruling focused on the process for selecting people to give the invocations, rather than details of the prayers.

“To be clear, the constitutional problem is not that the Commission lacked a formal, written policy or that the selection of speakers was left to the discretion of individual commissioners,” the ruling said. “The issue lies in how the commissioners exercised their discretion in practice. Brevard County’s haphazard selection process categorically excludes certain faiths ---- some monotheistic and apparently all polytheistic ones --- based on their belief systems. Most commissioners do not appear to have employed belief-neutral criteria in selecting which invocation-givers to invite.”

The court barred the county from continuing the current speaker-selection practices but did not order that the plaintiffs in the case be allowed to offer invocations.


They are going to have to do something. Otherwise, you are going to have Satanists giving the opening “prayer” at government meetings. How about they just get Catholic clergy to do it from here on out. The Catholic Church was the last state recognized church in the State of Florida. It was established by the Spanish Crown in 1565 until the transfer to the US by treaty in 1819 (which included all existing church property by the way). The US government and the subsequent state government declined to establish a new established church for the State of Florida, but did they ever really disestablish the old church? One could say the Catholic Church is not the church of the State of Florida by law (de Jure), but is in fact (de facto). Problem solved.

So now you're asking the government to pick and favor a particular religion? There are approximately the same number of Protestants in Florida as there are Catholics--do you think the majority of Protestants would appreciate your suggestion? It seems to me that your suggestion is far from being an acceptable solution. (As an aside, if you study early American history, you'll find that separation of church and state actually protects minority religions, and that protection might be the most important aspect of the concept. And so if we must have prayers at government meetings, we should keep in mind the abuses of the religious leaders in our past, and make certain we don't let anything like that happen again.)

Squeeky wheels (and favored partisans of certain religions) get the oil!

Our entire country was built on CHRISTIANITY! And as such shall remain CHRISTIAN! More Politically correct BS to wipe the one true G-D out of our country! Evil does not win! STAND STRONG County Commissioners!

I think you should set aside your Bible and start reading about American colonial history, the abuses by the religious leaders of the times, and the laws passed to support one religion over another. Our founding fathers saw the oppression caused by those who fled Europe's religious persecution, who then come to America and instituted their own forms of the very oppression they fled. The founding fathers lived much closer to those abuses than we do, and they recognized the danger in a government interwoven with religious laws, and how abusive those laws could be. The Maryland Toleration Act, for example, "granted freedom of conscience to all Christians ... but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus." (Wiki) So much for Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and etc, eh? That's what intolerance by religion leaders begets. After the act was repealed, they "banned public practice of Catholicism, and it would never be reinstated under colonial rule." So much for the Catholics, eh? And those hateful laws were passed by supposedly good, God-fearing Christians--people who stood against what they believed was 'evil,' to use the word you yourself wrote. They wanted their one true God supported, but in their way, no one else's. Your condemnation of your fellow Americans as "evil" is an example of the intolerance of religion. You demand that people must 'STAND STRONG' to support your religious beliefs, and you abhor 'political correctness’—which is nothing more than tolerance and respect for other people's beliefs. Individuals who think like you are exactly the reason that our founding fathers wrote the first amendment, to protect us from rulers with mind sets such as your own. You are as entitled to your beliefs as I am, and I support your right to express them, but the difference between me and you is that I believe that I’m right and people who think like you are wrong, but you believe that you’re right and people who don’t think like you are both wrong and—worse yet—‘evil’. And evil, in its religious connotation, is something that shouldn’t be simply defeated, it must be crushed, eliminated, it must be completely destroyed until no vestige whatsoever of it remains. That is NOT how a working democracy thrives. It is antithetical to the vision of our founding fathers. Separation of church and state protects minority religions and disbelievers from religious leaders who would put the populace under their thumb and brand them as evil, and so it was obviously deemed necessary for the good of the minorities and individual rights that the "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The founding fathers knew the importance of the separation of church and state even if you don't. Otherwise the Constitution might well have declared that we are a Christian country, and the first amendment would have been written differently, possibly that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of any religion except Christianity.' Thank God, or more aptly man's sanity, that it wasn’t. Or might be headed towards a second Dark Age.

I agree

Your a crazy person

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So much for personal choice. This is nothing but a backdoor attempt to silence those with personal beliefs of God in the favor of the removal of religion in its entirety. May the commissioners stand strong against the courts inflicting their own agenda.


Daniel, you are exactly right. That is how they have wiped all public events and schools of Christian influence. I hope I live long enough to see them try it on Muslim oractices.

"Paper; Rock; Scissors"! (It "works" EVERY TIME !)

Skip the invocations and get to the business at hand. Fairy tales don't belong in the government anyway.

Yes, fairy tales like socialism don't belong in the government.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans' Administration, the GI Bill, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the interstate highway system, land grant universities, public libraries, public access TV and a host of other policies and programs loved by the American public - aren't "fairy tales" - and are examples of "socialism" in the American system of Democratic Socialism.

You should have just added the US Postal Service and you would have covered ALL the crappy programs instituted by our government. And being a vet I know how bad the VA is, horrid! And the GI Bill? I had to pay into that, social security, have been paying into that for 40 years. And politicians keep stealing it! All your “socialistic” programs are the ones fleecing hard working Americans. So what we need to do is give all our money to the government and let them steal it all? Sounds like sound financial planning to me!

WRONG! Those are examples of the necessary infrastructure of a society. However, there are idiots (obviously) that don't know the difference.

Social Security is aptly named. One definition that Merriam-Webster offers for Social Security is, "the principle or practice or a program of public provision (as through social insurance or assistance) for the economic security and social welfare of the individual and his or her family." In other words, it’s a social program. If you look on the Wiki page, “Social programs in the United States,” you’ll also find Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Health Administration listed. To the conservatives who want to cut back on those programs or eliminate them or society’s funding of them, none of those particular items are “examples of the necessary infrastructure of a society.” It’s difficult to argue that they aren’t social programs. Since social means “relating to society or its organization,” one could take the position that any publicly funded program meant to benefit society is a social program from the stance of its economic support, even if the intent of the program might not be viewed as social in nature. For example the government funds connected with the construction and maintenance of the Interstate Highway System provide open roads for the mass transit of goods and people. (Approximately 1 in 4 miles driven in the U.S. are driven on those highways.) Those roads result in goods being delivered quicker to consumers and so we pay less for groceries, etc., which benefits all members of our society. So that’s one example of how how society benefits from an infrastructure program funded by that same society and although it’s not a social program in the commonly accepted sense, it is an infrastructure funded by all of us to the benefit of all of us. So it’s a government directed ‘Mutually Beneficial Infrastructure Program,’ and by its nature, it’s therefore arguably a social program in that particular sense. But we don’t refer to it like that because for various reasons we want and need there to be a separate category called “infrastructure,” apart from “social programs.” The Tennessee Valley Authority only benefits society that lives within its circle, but one could argue that most things that help one part of the country also help the whole, since we are a Union, and even George Washington, in his Farewell Address, emphatically stressed the importance of our Union. Let us not forget that “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” forms the basis of our government by defining its purpose in a sociological way, and our government is literally the embodiment of that Constitution. The famous document could have begun with, “As individuals, we declare,” etc., but it did not. It formed a government based on a mutually beneficial society with the first words of the Constitution—“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” Those Damn Socialists.

What about the individual commissioners right to Free Exercise? It is time to bridle the courts!

There's a time and place for everything, dude.

The real goal of the antagonists was to get rid of the invocations, since they know that is more palatable than allowing a satanist (or other side-show freak) to use the invocations as a platform to show disrespect.

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