Sixth Circuit Upholds Right of County Commission to Pray Before Meetings

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion this week in Bormuth v. County of Jackson in which it upheld the right of the Jackson County (Michigan) Board of Commissioners to open its meetings with a prayer. The prayers were offered by commissioners on a rotating basis, and while most were given from a Christian perspective, there was no evidence of discriminatory intent in establishing the practice.

The Plaintiff, Peter Bormuth, a self-described “Pagan and Animist” claimed that the prayers were “severely offensive” and felt he was being required to “worship Jesus Christ in order to participate in the business of County Government.”

The court recognized the long tradition of legislative bodies opening meetings in prayer as well as two Supreme Court decisions that were on point.

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