Atheists Drop Prayer Ban Request in Lawsuit Against Md. County

Atheist plaintiffs have dropped their request for a temporary ban on sectarian prayers in Carroll County, Md., instead requesting a federal judge to make a final decision on the lawsuit they filed last year.

This week the American Humanist Association, along with several Carroll County atheist plaintiffs, announced that it would drop its request to have federal Judge William D. Quarles Jr. re-issue a temporary ban on sectarian prayers in Carroll County. Instead, the humanist association has asked Quarles to issue a final judgment on their lawsuit, instead of bringing the litigation to trial.

Monica Miller, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, told the Carroll County Times that her group withdrew their request to save the court's time. Commissioners with Carroll County have already filed a similar request, asking Quarles to issue a final judgment on the lawsuit instead of proceeding with a trial, and a decision is expected sometime in the coming months.

The American Humanist Association and local atheists filed a lawsuit against their county government in 2013, arguing that the prayers said at county commissioner meetings were outwardly sectarian in nature. Quarles initially granted a temporary injunction against the sectarian prayers, but the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case Greece vs. Galloway caused Quarles to lift the injunction.

Multiple Carroll County commissioners have voiced their opposition to a ban on prayers at their county meetings, arguing it is their First Amendment right to reference Jesus and God when holding the pre-meeting invocations. The most notable opponent to the lawsuit was Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who blatantly disobeyed the temporary injunction last month, offering a decidedly sectarian prayer that referenced Jesus as a form of protest to Quarles' initial ruling.

Other county officials have expressed their relief that Quarles decided to lift his injunction following the Supreme Court ruling. Commissioner Richard Rothschild previously told The Baltimore Sun that he found the lifting of the injunction to be a "freeing" experience.

"I thought to myself that I could now pray consistent with my conscience, and no longer violate my own spiritual beliefs."

Dave Roush, president of the Board of County Commissioners, also told The Baltimore Sun that he was pleased with the Supreme Court ruling in Greece vs. Galloway, saying that Carroll County's prayers ask simply for guidance and wisdom, and do not seek to impose religious beliefs on any of their listeners.

"When we pray, we're not praying for anything more than guidance, wisdom and blessings for this board in doing the right job for the people of this community," he said.