Carroll County, Maryland Sued for Promoting Christianity at Board Meetings

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association has just sued Carroll County, Maryland for opening their Board of Commissioners’ public meetings with “Commissioner-delivered sectarian prayers.”

In other words, not only do the Commissioners hold prayers at meetings, they praise Jesus like nobody’s business.

What’s surprising about this case may be the nature of one of the plaintiffs:

Plaintiff Bruce A. Hake objects to the Sectarian Prayers on religious grounds. He is a religious Roman Catholic, and he believes the Sectarian Prayers violate his First Amendment rights to religious liberty by advancing a version of Christianity that is historically anti- Catholic. In addition, he believes that the Sectarian Prayers violate principles set forth clearly in the Christian Bible, and thus violate his religious liberties by forcing him either to avoid Board meetings or be forced to participate in proceedings that violate his religious faith. In addition, Mr. Hake is the owner of a business in Carroll County (a small law firm), and he believes that the Sectarian Prayers create a hostile environment that is potentially harmful to his business.

So you can’t even pin this on fire-breathing atheists.

Anyway, the complaint (PDF) explains what’s going on in Carroll County:

A review of the video recordings of Board meetings during 2011 and 20121 reveals that on at least 54 separate occasions, Sectarian Prayers were delivered containing the Christian references identified in the following list on the dates identified: 1/4/2011 (“Jesus”); 1/18/2011 (“Jesus”); 1/19/2012 (the Lord’s Prayer); 1/25/2011 (“Savior”); 1/27/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/8/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/15/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/22/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/3/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/22/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/29/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/31/2011 (“Jesus”); 4/14/2011 (“Jesus”); 4/26/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/3/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/12/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/19/2011 (“Jesus”); 6/16/2011 (“Jesus”); 7/21/2011 (“Jesus”); 7/28/2011 (“Savior”); 8/9/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/1/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/29/2011 (“Jesus”); 10/6/2011 (“Jesus”); 10/31/2011 (“in Jesus, my Savior’s name, I pray”); 11/3/2011 (“Savior”); 12/8/2011 (“Jesus”); 12/13/2011 (“Savior”); 1/11/2012 (“Savior”); 1/24/2012 (“Jesus”); 2/9/2012 (“Jesus”); 2/16/2012 (“Savior”); 3/1/2012 (“Savior”); 3/21/2012 (“Jesus”); 4/5/2012 (“Savior”); 4/16/2012 (“Jesus”); 4/24/2012 (“Savior”); 5/29/2012 (“Savior”); 6/7/2012 (“Jesus”); 6/28/2012 (“Jesus”); 7/5/2012 (“Jesus”); 7/19/2012 (“Jesus”); 8/14/2012 (“Jesus”); 8/28/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/1/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/4/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/13/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/20/2012 (“Savior”); 10/4/2012 (“Jesus”); 10/11/2012 (“Savior”); 10/25/2012 (“Savior”); 11/13/2012 (“Savior”); 11/29/2012 (“Jesus”); and 12/6/2012 (“Savior”).

During this two year period, none of the official prayers delivered by the Commissioners mentioned non-Christian deities or used non-Christian language.

So this Board isn’t even trying to be inclusive on this one. It’s Jesus all the way.

This is the same Board, by the way, that urged county employees to attend a training course on the Maryland Constitution hosted by a Christian group that promoted the idea that “There is a God, the God of the Bible. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to secure these God-given rights.”

They’ve gotten away with promoting religion in their government roles for too long; that may finally stop if the courts do the right thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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