A Federal judge has issued an injunction in the case of the Sussex County Council case over the issue of prayers during the official meetings of the council that prohibits the council from holding an organized prayer during the regular meetings.
Now many of you know that I have argued that when the council is called to order they become a body of government and as such they are no longer afforded the rights of individuals. Also as a body of government the use of a prayer that is a Christian prayer borders on the establishment of a state religion. At the very least it is a government endorsement of a single religion by government.
The original case was brought by citizens who were offended by the prayer, however there is no case for being offended. But I do believe that there is a case against government sanctioned religion.
When the original case was brought the council’s practice was to call the meeting to order and then the council president would lead the chamber in the Lord’s Prayer, technically a Jewish prayer given to us by Jesus Christ. Again, in my opinion this is not a matter of and individual being denied the free exercise of their religion, nor is it a case of them being denied their right to freedom of speech, since those rights are guaranteed to individuals, not bodies of government, they are actually intended to protect us from the body government.
However since the law suit was filed, the council has changed their practice in that they now say the invocation and then call the meeting to order. Now of course this is merely a technicality, but when we are talking about laws, a technicality is all there is sometimes to decide the issue. In my opinion the council has found a legitimate way to satisfy both those who wish to pray, without technically acting as a body of government while doing it. Until the meeting is called to order those members are simply citizens and are not acting as representatives of the rest of the citizens.
That is why I now feel that the court has made an incorrect judgement in blocking these prayers. Now it could be that the court made their decision based on the fact that the council was previously calling to order prior to saying the invocation, since that was the practice at the time the suit was filed.
However to prohibit prayer by citizens prior to the meeting being called to order is a clear violation of the free exercise of religion. I have no problem with a prayer being said by citizens, including the council members prior to the meeting. To prohibit members of the council saying a prayer before the meeting would be like saying that once a person is elected to an office, they can no longer say a public prayer, this would seem to include even in their church of choice. Of course that is ridiculous.
I would encourage the council to appeal based on the fact that the prayers are no longer technically a part of the meetings. I have to believe that they should prevail based on this fact.