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.