A federal judge in Delaware has issued a preliminary injunction in a case challenging the Sussex County Council’s policy of saying the Lord’s Prayer before all of their meetings, but he suspended that ruling to give the two sides time to work out a compromise. Americans United said in a press release:
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The Lord’s Prayer is a distinctly Christian religious exercise. Opening government meetings with that prayer – as the Sussex County Council did – violates the constitutional principle that government must not favor one religion over any other.”
Americans United filed the lawsuit in June 2011 on behalf of four Sussex County residents — the Rev. John Steinbruck, Barbara Mullin, Julie Jackson and William O’Connor. All plaintiffs in the lawsuit attend council meetings and were offended by the governmental body’s promotion of one religious perspective and disrespect of other faiths.
In his decision, Stark wrote, “The fact that The Lord’s Prayer has been the only prayer recited at the beginning of Council meetings for over six years is likely to be found to demonstrate that the Council gives Christianity an unconstitutionally preferred status, sending a message to meeting attendees that the Council is promoting the beliefs of Christianity.”
Unfortunately, this is only a partial success. The Supreme Court has allowed pre-session prayers at state and local legislatures as long as those prayers are “non-sectarian.” So all they have to do is make the prayer to God instead of mentioning Jesus and, voila, it’s perfectly legal. So it’s okay to promote several religions at once — wink, wink — but not one.