Tuesday was a first for Franklin County.
James Goggan, Washington, delivered the first official invocation before the county commission’s weekly public meeting.
Commissioners unanimously adopted a policy to have members of the general public deliver invocations at the start of meetings in June. The first signups were accepted in July.
Goggan, the owner and general manager of a local Christian radio station, thanked God “on behalf of the approximately 75,000 Christians in this county” for allowing him to speak freely “and raise our public prayer up to you, the creator, the source of unalienable rights, the only God who is referenced in our United States Declaration of Independence.”
Goggan asked God to give commissioners and other county elected officials and employees wisdom to do what is best for the citizens of the county.
Goggan concluded his invocation by saying “in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, amen.”
Several audience members also responded with “amen.”
The county’s invocation policy states that speakers “should not proselytize or make any effort to convert anyone present to a particular faith and should not disparage any faith.”
The invocations are to be limited to two minutes and aren’t considered part of the commission’s official business.
The invocation policy came about in response to a letter the county received from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Earlier this year, the ACLU wrote the commission asking specifically for Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer to halt leading prayers himself.
The organization’s attorneys have since sued the county on behalf of an anonymous county resident, stating that Griesheimer’s prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. and Missouri constitutions by having a governmental employee endorsing and promoting a specific religion, in this case Christianity.
That lawsuit is currently before federal Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. in St. Louis. A joint proposed scheduling plan was submitted by attorneys for both sides this week.
The schedule calls for a bench trial on or after July 15, 2013.