JACKSON – On Wednesday, a divided federal appeals court said the elected public board of commissioners in Jackson County, Michigan, did not violate the U.S. Constitution by opening monthly meetings with Christian prayers and asking audience members to join.
By a 9-6 vote, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected claims by the plaintiff, Peter Bormuth, that the prayers violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause because the commissioners, all Christian, offered them.
Bormuth did not respond to requests for comment.
The majority said its decision conflicted with a July 14 ruling by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, rejecting a similar practice by Rowan County’s Board of Commissioners in North Carolina.
Rowan County is weighing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which considers federal appeals court splits a key criterion for taking a case.
Bormuth, a self-described pagan and animist, claimed he was made to feel like he was “in church” and forced to worship Jesus Christ before participating in Jackson County board meetings.