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Legal Docket: Defending religious liberty

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July 16, 2018

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Monday morning, start of a new work week for The World and Everything in It. Today is the 16th of July, 2018.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Today as part of our summer series Legal Docket we bring you legal issues emerging in the lower courts.

One matter seemingly already settled but that keeps emerging involves prayer before public meetings.

EICHER: In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that prayer before city council meetings is Constitutional (Town of Greece v Galloway). But that was a split 5-4 ruling. Atheist, humanist, and secular groups continue to batter away at the precedent whenever possible.

One lawsuit that’s arisen is out of Jackson County, Michigan. Listen as County Commissioner Jonathan Williams opens up the meeting:

WILLIAMS: Lord God we ask that you give this board the wisdom to conduct the people’s business tonight and throughout our tenure. We ask that you allow those first responders, soldiers, and certainly the teachers to know strength as they carry out their most important work in protecting our families and educating our youth.

REICHARD: Jeremy Dys is a lawyer with First Liberty, a Dallas-based organization devoted to religious liberty cases. He’s here to talk about this and other litigation.

Jeremy, let’s start with this case out of Michigan, the Sixth Circuit. I’ve read that it’s actually been somewhat resolved just recently- but not quite?

JEREMY DYS: Well…now we know from our history, our tradition as well as Supreme Court precedent that is perfectly permissible to begin these public meetings with prayer. And in fact the Supreme Court says you could pay a chaplain to do it. They’ve even said that you can have a volunteer from the local community comment and provide this invocation, but the question before the court in the Sixth Circuit was whether or not the lawmakers themselves, these elected officials, if they could give this prayer and the Sixth Circuit concluded, that’s absolutely fine.

That case was recently appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States and… the decision of the Sixth Circuit is going to stand and at least within the Sixth Circuit and we hope that that will expand across the country…That’s good news and a good sign.

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