First Amendment

Prayers before city meetings are constitutional, appeals court rules

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said that allowing prayers before city meetings in Florida is constitutional.

The ruling (PDF) is a victory for the city of Lakeland, which is among many municipalities in Florida that open meetings with prayer, the News-Press reports.

Atheists of Florida filed suit in 2010 to challenge the practice as promoting Christianity. But the court, in upholding a lower court, found that the practice passed constitutional muster because of a city policy that includes a process for selecting speakers from a variety of sources.

“The selection procedures of the invocational speakers invited to deliver an invocation at (the) Lakeland City Commission’s meetings pursuant to policies and practices … do not support the AOF’s contention that Lakeland attempted to exploit the prayer opportunity to proselytize or advance or disparage any one faith or belief,” the court ruled. “Nor do these policies and practices have the effect of affiliating the Lakeland City Commission with any discrete one faith or belief.”

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