Can’t Say this Plaintiff Didn’t Have a Prayer

A Utah resident upset with the fact that the Murray City, Utah, city council opened its meetings with a prayer, submitted a request to open the meeting with his own prayer, a free establishment protest prayer. Here are some excerpts:

OUR MOTHER, who art in heaven (if, indeed there is a heaven and if there is a god that takes a woman’s form) hallowed be thy name, we ask for thy blessing for and guidance of those that will participate in this meeting and for those mortals that govern the state of Utah;

We fervently ask that you guide the leaders of this city … so that they may see the wisdom of separating church and state and so that they will never again perform demeaning religious ceremonies as part of official government functions;

We pray that you prevent self-righteous politicians from mis-using the name of God in conducting government meetings; and, that you lead them away from the hypocritical and blasphemous deception of the public, attempting to make the people believe that bureaucrats’ decisions and actions have thy stamp of approval if prayers are offered at the beginning of government meetings …

Not surprisingly, his request was denied. He filed suit and the trial court granted summary judgment for the city, but the Utah Supreme Court reversed, holding that the city could not discriminate against the plaintiff’s prayer just because it didn’t like the content.

Snyder v. Murray City Corporation, 73 P.3d 325, 327 n.1 (Utah 2003). Thanks to Elise Hendrick.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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