UNION — After filing suit against the Franklin County Commission last summer for declaring that prayers offered before meetings instituted a government-forced religion, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has now withdrawn legal action to stop these invocations.
“I think it is good they dropped the lawsuit,” said Jim Plymale, director of missions for the Franklin County Baptist Association. “Now there will be no further legal expenses or clouds over the County Commission in this area.”
Plymale believes the reason the ACLU backed out of the lawsuit was because of the recent adoption of a fair invocation policy drafted by the commissioners and lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the nation’s leading Christian legal defense firm. The guidelines require a sign-up sheet for invocation volunteers, a plan for random selection of the invocation giver, as well as restrictions on promoting or condemning any other religion during the invocation.
“The policy adopted was considered fair and open to all who would want to participate in an invocation, but it does not require anyone to participate, thus answering (the ACLU’s) major complaints,” he said. “Since the policy was enacted, there is no point in continuing this lawsuit.”
Though this is good news for the county and for all who are in favor of religious freedom in the public sector going forward, the ACLU is still maintaining its secondary lawsuit against the Commission for allowing Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer, who is a former state senator, to lead in the opening prayer himself before the invocation policy was put in place.
The ACLU is seeking a nominal $1 in damages for alleged prior violations of constitutional rights, as well as the payment of their attorneys’ fees.
“I spoke with (Griesheimer) today and he is hopeful the ACLU will drop this as well, or, if they do go to court, that it will be settled in (the County Commission’s) favor,” Plymale said.