A federal judge has ordered a hearing to decide whether Hamilton County commissioners must temporarily halt prayers held during their meetings.
On Wednesday, Judge Harry S. Mattice ordered the parties to appear on July 26 at 9 a.m. to consider a motion for preliminary injunction sought on Sunday by plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones. Such an injunction requires much proof, and while temporary, stops the allegedly harmful action until a judge rules on the case.
Jones and Coleman earlier this month sued the commissioners and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor in the Eastern District of Tennessee. The residents argue that the body's prayers, which regularly invoke Jesus' name, are a First Amendment Establishment Clause violation. Taylor led such a prayer on June 6.
Hamilton County commissioners have agreed to be represented by the Alliance Defense Fund in the lawsuit challenging their weekly invocations.
The nonprofit legal group has agreed to represent the county pro bono, along with local counsel Bryan Duggin.
The commission will also vote next week on a recommended invocation policy prepared by the county attorney's office and legal committee chairman Jim Fields.
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