An atheist legal group has filed a motion accusing commissioners in Maryland of repeatedly defying a judge’s order prohibiting them from praying during public meetings.
The American Humanist Association is accusing Carroll County, Md., commissioners of again violating a preliminary injunction after the board apparently invited Bruce Holstein, a campaign manager for one of the commissioners, to speak at Monday’s meeting.
Holstein reportedly read a statement that criticized the judge’s order and uttered a prayer explicitly invoking Jesus Christ’s name.
Since none of the commissioners stepped in to stop the speech, the association is now taking action.
“We regret this action had to be taken, but the commissioners have now broken the law twice,” attorney Monica Miller said in a statement.
The move comes after commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier also ignored the order and opened last Thursday’s budget meeting with an invocation referencing Jesus Christ, saying she was willing to go to jail over her religious views.
“We thought Commissioner Frazier’s recitation of a sectarian prayer was a one-time incident,” Miller continued. “It’s now clear that she and the other Carroll County commissioners insist on continuing the practice of sectarian prayers at board meeting regardless of the court order.”
The American Humanist Association is asking that the court impose a $30,000 fine on Carroll County to be paid in full to the secular group. The organization is also asking for $10,000 for each additional infraction.
The preliminary injunction against sectarian prayer was signed last month by U.S. District Court of Maryland Judge William D. Quarles Jr.
The temporary move follows the filing of a lawsuit in May 2013 by the American Humanist Association and several residents, claiming that sectarian invocations at government meetings posed a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
As the Carroll County Times reported, sectarian prayers are being legally halted until the judge makes a determination in the lawsuit against Carroll County.
The motion of contempt can be read here.
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