A federal judge will rule "as soon as possible" on a preliminary injunction filed against the Hamilton County Commission's ability to continue allowing prayers to be offered "in Jesus' name" at their weekly meetings, after attorneys for both the commission and plaintiffs filed additional briefings in the case.
The dispute has been ongoing for months.
During a hearing two weeks ago, U.S. Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice requested that both sides file additional evidence and optional briefings up to 15 pages long for his review. The briefings, filed by attorneys this week, reiterate the arguments of both sides and point to past court cases to substantiate their positions.
In his briefing, Robin Flores, attorney for plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones, cited a recent case in which a court found that a town's process for selecting prayer-givers "virtually ensured" a Christian viewpoint. Flores said a recent prayer policy enacted by the commission on July 3 was no different and called it a "weak attempt" at inclusiveness.
"The policy is a clear sham to force in name what is a violation of the Constitution in substance," Flores wrote. "The actions of the defendant ensure an exclusive Christian view in the prayers. The policy changed nothing. The defendant's actions turned what is to be a government meeting that deals with issues that affect all residents of Hamilton County into a church service."
In the briefing filed by commission attorney Stephen Duggins, the attorney argued the injunction filed against commissioners was nothing but a "facial challenge" to the new policy, which had been in place for too short of a time for a court to make a substantial ruling. The brief also stated there was no way for a federal court to differentiate between "sectarian" and "nonsectarian" prayers.
"The record does not reflect how the policy will be implemented over time," Duggins wrote. "The absence of a meaningful record leaves the court no choice but to consider the demand for the prospective relief to be a facial attack on the invocation policy."
Upon concluding last month's hearing, Mattice said that after the briefings had been filed, he would rule on the injunction quickly.
"The community deserves an answer on this," he said.
No date for the resumption of the hearing has been set.