County sued over invocations

Alleging violations of the state and federal constitutions, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Brevard County Commission because atheists and other non-religious people have been prevented from offering “solemnizing messages” at the beginning of commission meetings.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Orlando, said the county “has repeatedly rejected and ignored requests from atheists and humanists to give opening invocations at meetings of its Board of County Commissioners. The county has adopted a policy of permitting only people who hold theistic religious beliefs to give the invocations.”

The ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of several plaintiffs. The lawsuit contends that invocations were given at 168 of 180 meetings from Jan. 1, 2010, through May 28 of this year and that almost all were given by Christians or had Christian content. The lawsuit alleges that the county violated First Amendment and equal-protection rights by allowing such invocations but not messages from atheists and other non-religious people.

“The county’s policy, custom, and practice has the purpose and effect of favoring, promoting, advancing, endorsing, proselytizing, and coercively supporting theistic beliefs and individuals, while disfavoring, disadvantaging, disparaging, denigrating, and discriminating against nontheistic beliefs and individuals, including the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said.

–source: The News Service of Florida