Md. county reverts to disputed prayer policy

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — The elected leaders of a Maryland county have voted unanimously to revert to a disputed prayer policy following a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing clergy to invoke specific deities in opening invocations at government meetings.

The Carroll County Commissioners still face a First Amendment challenge from critics who say the high court ruling doesn't address the practice of having opening prayers said by the elected commissioners themselves, some of whom routinely invoke Jesus Christ. The plaintiffs in a pending federal lawsuit say those prayers violate the Constitution's prohibition of establishment of a state religion because the prayers are said by government officials. The plaintiffs say that amounts to coercion.

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, an attorney, acknowledged that the Supreme Court ruling "didn't necessarily affirm" their practice. But he said, "as long as we're not proselytizing or denigrating, and none of us ever have, that's not a violation."

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