FRANKLIN COUNTY, Missouri (KMOV) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Franklin County Commissioners to force them to stop opening meetings with a prayer.
The Tuesday commission meetings traditionally started with a moment of silence, but last year presiding commissioner John Griesheimer started saying a prayer. Griesheimer said,
“We were requested by the citizens that attend the meetings regularly to do a prayer. And I spent 18 years at the Missouri Legislature and we opened every, both the house and the senate, everyday they’re opened by prayer,” said Griesheimer.
The ACLU contends since the prayers ended with the phrase, “in Jesus name,” the prayers were Christian prayers. The lawsuit contends that it was clearly established that it is unconstitutional for a member of the Franklin County Commission to lead a prayer during the commission’s meetings because it violates the 1st and 14th Amendments.
“Because they’re being led by the leading elected official in the county, that gives any reasonable person the impression it is the government, Franklin County that is endorsing a particular religious view,” said ACLU Legal Director Tony Rothert.
Griesheimer News 4 that the he stopped leading prayers after receiving a letter from the ACLU. He said the commission has also adopted a new policy prohibiting audience members from saying a prayer during the public comment portion of the meetings.
He also added there’s no need for the lawsuit. The ACLU is taking a wait-and-see approach to make sure the prayers don’t start up again.
Commissioners will meet with their attorney on Friday to decide what their next step will be.