(Saline, Illinois January 16, 2018)--The Appignani Humanist Legal Center (AHLC) is defending the First Amendment rights of Saline County residents who object to minister-led Christian prayers at county board meetings. Saline County Board Chairman Jay Williams received a letter today from the AHLC informing him of the unconstitutional nature of its practice of commencing county board meetings with sectarian Christian prayers led by a local minister who also happens to be a board member.
Jeremy Stroud, First Deputy in the Saline County Clerk’s Office, alerted the AHLC to what he felt was a serious constitutional violation, reporting that each county board meeting begins with an instruction from the board chair to rise for a two to three minute specifically Christian prayer. According to the AHLC letter, when Mr. Stroud pointed out that these practices could be constitutionally problematic, he was incorrectly told by an employee of the clerk’s office that prohibiting this exclusively Christian board practice would violate the religious rights of the participants.
“The fact that Saline County’s practice categorically excludes all non-Christian faiths is problematic,” read the AHLC letter written by AHLC senior counsel, Monica Miller. “Even more problematic is that the delivery of the invocation is restricted to one board member only, thereby ensuring they will be consistent with Christian doctrine. This is a clear breach of the Establishment Clause.”
The AHLC letter demanded that the Saline County Board discontinue the board's prayer practice, and if the county decides to initiate another policy in the future, that it ensure the new policy abides by the appropriate guidelines set forth by law.