FFRF, AU, ACLU Sue Brevard County, FL for Discrimination

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU are teaming up to sue Brevard County, Florida, where the county commission has consistently refused to allow humanists to give secular invocations before their meetings. In a press release, the groups said:

In legal action filed today by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of multiple plaintiffs, the groups assert that Brevard County’s persistent rejection of atheists, humanists and other nontheists who want to deliver solemnizing messages at the commencement of board meetings violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said: “The framers of our entirely secular and godless Constitution did not find it necessary to pray during the four months the Constitutional Convention met. Why then should it be necessary for county commissioners to pray over liquor licenses, variances and other lesser matters? But if religious citizens are permitted to open county board meetings with invocations, then secular invocations must also be permitted.”

“Brevard County’s invocation policy blatantly discriminates against people who do not believe in God,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United and lead counsel in the case. “Such rank discrimination is plainly unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit notes that in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that local governments cannot discriminate based on religion when choosing who will deliver solemnizing statements to open government meetings. Yet Brevard County is doing exactly that by refusing to allow anyone who does not profess monotheistic beliefs to offer an official invocation.

“Over the last half-century, our country has made great progress — both legally and socially — toward eradicating discrimination and meeting the goal of equality for all, which lies at the heart of our Constitution,” asserts the lawsuit. “Discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, and (more recently) sexual orientation has become prohibited or disfavored. Nevertheless, in Brevard County’s eyes, people who do not believe in God remain a disfavored minority against whom it is acceptable to discriminate.”

The only question, really, is whether the county’s attorneys convince them to change the policy or whether they go to court and lose badly and then have to pay the legal costs of the plaintiffs.

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  • John Pieret

    One thing about the Town of Greece decision was that the Town’s rules for selecting who could give the invocation specifically allowed atheists and other non-theists to give them.

    Arrogance and stupidity are a bad mix.

  • John Pieret

    One thing about the Town of Greece decision was that the Town’s rules for selecting who could give the invocation specifically allowed atheists and other non-theists to give them.

    Arrogance and stupidity are a bad mix.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    This doesn’t need to be “settled” in a “court” of “Law”. You people can come in before the meetings. I fail you see why’d you’d want to say the traditional invocation in Our Lord and Savior’s name, though.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    This doesn’t need to be “settled” in a “court” of “Law”. You people can come in before the meetings. I fail you see why’d you’d want to say the traditional invocation in Our Lord and Savior’s name, though.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    The only question, really, is whether the county’s attorneys convince them to change the policy or whether they go to court and lose badly and then have to pay the legal costs of the plaintiffs.

    The latter, with very little question at all; from news reports, the lawyer in question seems to be passing swill as legal advice. If anyone cares, it looks like the county website has much of the meeting info here — includes video, excludes the purported 11 page report.

    There’s the faint chance the county’s insurance company may get involved, look at the lawsuit, and say “hire an attorney who drools less and settle, or else we’re dropping your coverage”. I’m not sure what the rules on that are.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    The only question, really, is whether the county’s attorneys convince them to change the policy or whether they go to court and lose badly and then have to pay the legal costs of the plaintiffs.

    The latter, with very little question at all; from news reports, the lawyer in question seems to be passing swill as legal advice. If anyone cares, it looks like the county website has much of the meeting info here — includes video, excludes the purported 11 page report.

    There’s the faint chance the county’s insurance company may get involved, look at the lawsuit, and say “hire an attorney who drools less and settle, or else we’re dropping your coverage”. I’m not sure what the rules on that are.

  • Scientismist

    Look, these are county officials we’re talking about. A solemnizing message from a humanist simply won’t cut it. Do you really expect them to make decisions about liquor licenses and zoning variances without a daily reassurance (as Scalia has explained) that the function of government is to wield God’s Sword of Justice and exercise His wrath against the evildoer?

    Mayor, Town of Halloween: “Jack, please, I’m only an elected official here, I can’t make decisions by myself!”

  • Scientismist

    Look, these are county officials we’re talking about. A solemnizing message from a humanist simply won’t cut it. Do you really expect them to make decisions about liquor licenses and zoning variances without a daily reassurance (as Scalia has explained) that the function of government is to wield God’s Sword of Justice and exercise His wrath against the evildoer?

    Mayor, Town of Halloween: “Jack, please, I’m only an elected official here, I can’t make decisions by myself!”

  • John Pieret

    abb3w:

    “hire an attorney who drools less and settle, or else we’re dropping your coverage”

    It would depend on the exact terms of the policy but I believe that most municipal insurance covering constitutional violations require the municipality to let the carrier settle at an early stage if the carrier believes the violation is clear.

    If the municipality refuses, the carrier can disclaim and has to pay nothing or, at most, what it could have settled the case for.

  • John Pieret

    abb3w:

    “hire an attorney who drools less and settle, or else we’re dropping your coverage”

    It would depend on the exact terms of the policy but I believe that most municipal insurance covering constitutional violations require the municipality to let the carrier settle at an early stage if the carrier believes the violation is clear.

    If the municipality refuses, the carrier can disclaim and has to pay nothing or, at most, what it could have settled the case for.

  • whheydt

    Must be a rich county if they can afford to be sued (even their attorney says that’s likely) in a case where they are sure to lose.

  • whheydt

    Must be a rich county if they can afford to be sued (even their attorney says that’s likely) in a case where they are sure to lose.

  • whheydt

    Re: John Pieret @ #5…

    That could get….interesting. If the plaintiffs are willing to settle for a small, nominal amount if settled promptly with a policy change, but go after a substantial amount if it actually goes to trial, the insurance company might go off laughing all the way to the bank while the defendants try to figure out how to apportion the pain across their tax base to pay what they owe.

  • whheydt

    Re: John Pieret @ #5…

    That could get….interesting. If the plaintiffs are willing to settle for a small, nominal amount if settled promptly with a policy change, but go after a substantial amount if it actually goes to trial, the insurance company might go off laughing all the way to the bank while the defendants try to figure out how to apportion the pain across their tax base to pay what they owe.

  • brewlord

    They’re simple people, you know, morons.

  • brewlord

    They’re simple people, you know, morons.

  • grumpyoldfart

    All costs will be paid from the County bank account, not from the pockets of individual commissioners, so they don’t care how much it costs.

  • grumpyoldfart

    All costs will be paid from the County bank account, not from the pockets of individual commissioners, so they don’t care how much it costs.

  • whheydt

    Re: grumpyoldfart @ #9….

    Yeah…that’s one of the flaws in the system. On the other hand, just wait until Joe Citizen goes to a county commision meeting to get a pothole fixed and is told, “We can’t do that. We don’t have the money. All the money for fixing potholes went to pay off the lawsuit we lost.” The ensuing exchanges should be…interesting. As should some of the elections afterwards.

  • whheydt

    Re: grumpyoldfart @ #9….

    Yeah…that’s one of the flaws in the system. On the other hand, just wait until Joe Citizen goes to a county commision meeting to get a pothole fixed and is told, “We can’t do that. We don’t have the money. All the money for fixing potholes went to pay off the lawsuit we lost.” The ensuing exchanges should be…interesting. As should some of the elections afterwards.

  • John Pieret

    All costs will be paid from the County bank account, not from the pockets of individual commissioners, so they don’t care how much it costs.

    Just as a matter of interest, that’s not always the case. If municipal or state officials violate a constitutional principle that is clear (say, insisting on segregating public schools) they can lose their “limited immunity” for their official actions. It is very rare and even where they lose it, the government often continues to cover their defense costs and pay any judgments against them individually. It is unlikely in this case anyway, since the Town of Greece case is relatively new and not so clear as that. But government officials being personally liable for their official actions is not impossible.

  • John Pieret

    All costs will be paid from the County bank account, not from the pockets of individual commissioners, so they don’t care how much it costs.

    Just as a matter of interest, that’s not always the case. If municipal or state officials violate a constitutional principle that is clear (say, insisting on segregating public schools) they can lose their “limited immunity” for their official actions. It is very rare and even where they lose it, the government often continues to cover their defense costs and pay any judgments against them individually. It is unlikely in this case anyway, since the Town of Greece case is relatively new and not so clear as that. But government officials being personally liable for their official actions is not impossible.

  • dingojack

    whheydt (#10) – That ‘interesting exchange and voting’ will most likely sound a little like:

    JOE CITZEN: I want the council to fix the pot-hole in front of my house –

    MAYOR McCHEEZE: Sorry we can’t. We don’t have the money because we lost a lawsuit to THOSE DAMNED OUTTA-TOWNER COMMIE *URBAN* (wink, wink) JOO ATHEISTS!

    They teamed up with them ACTIVIST-BLACK-ROBED-TYRANTS to FORCE us into NOT being able to have the FREEDUM to compel EVERYONE to give JEEZUZ a really good slobbery-tongued felching before EVERY public activity in this here County!!!

    JOE CITIZEN: Curse those NASTY ATHEISTS. Forget third-party — VOTE McCHEEZE!

    [JOE, and the rest of the good CITIZENS of Brevard County stampede down to the voting booths, electing MAYOR McCHEEZE as Dictator for Life by unanimous vote.]

    @@

    Dingo

  • dingojack

    whheydt (#10) – That ‘interesting exchange and voting’ will most likely sound a little like:

    JOE CITZEN: I want the council to fix the pot-hole in front of my house –

    MAYOR McCHEEZE: Sorry we can’t. We don’t have the money because we lost a lawsuit to THOSE DAMNED OUTTA-TOWNER COMMIE *URBAN* (wink, wink) JOO ATHEISTS!

    They teamed up with them ACTIVIST-BLACK-ROBED-TYRANTS to FORCE us into NOT being able to have the FREEDUM to compel EVERYONE to give JEEZUZ a really good slobbery-tongued felching before EVERY public activity in this here County!!!

    JOE CITIZEN: Curse those NASTY ATHEISTS. Forget third-party — VOTE McCHEEZE!

    [JOE, and the rest of the good CITIZENS of Brevard County stampede down to the voting booths, electing MAYOR McCHEEZE as Dictator for Life by unanimous vote.]

    @@

    Dingo

  • skinnercitycyclist

    Dingo, for an Aussie, you sure do have a handle on US politics.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    Dingo, for an Aussie, you sure do have a handle on US politics.

  • https://plus.google.com/107095827599382907783 NS Alito

    “The framers of our entirely secular and godless Constitution did not find it necessary to pray during the four months the Constitutional Convention met. Why then should it be necessary for county commissioners to pray…”

    If we’re going to use the Constitutional Convention as a model for civil legislative bodies, shouldn’t the county commission be stinkin’ drunk?

  • https://plus.google.com/107095827599382907783 NS Alito

    “The framers of our entirely secular and godless Constitution did not find it necessary to pray during the four months the Constitutional Convention met. Why then should it be necessary for county commissioners to pray…”

    If we’re going to use the Constitutional Convention as a model for civil legislative bodies, shouldn’t the county commission be stinkin’ drunk?