ACLU of Alaska Calls on Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to Reverse New Invocation Policy

Policy Unconstitutionally Limits Who May Offer Prayers before Assembly Meetings

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
October 20, 2016 5:00 pm

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Soldotna, Alaska – The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska wrote to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly today to warn them that their new policy on who may offer religious invocations is unconstitutional. The Assembly adopted this policy, Resolution 2016-056, on Tuesday, October 11, in a 6 to 3 vote.

“Up until last week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly let anyone who wanted to offer an invocation to do so; unfortunately, now people must pass a five-part religion test that unconstitutionally excludes people who go to church outside of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, who belong to churches that don’t regularly meet, and those who don’t belong to any church at all,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua A. Decker.

The United States Supreme Court, in its 2014 opinion of Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway, ruled that, “Once it invites prayer into the public sphere, government must permit a prayer giver to address his or her own God or gods as conscience dictates, unfettered by what an administrator or judge considers to be nonsectarian.” In that case, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. explained that since the September 1774 opening of the First Continental Congress, the purpose of legislative invocations “was not to divide, but to unite.”

“We hope that the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will promptly fix this unconstitutional discrimination,” said Decker. “Under the Constitution, it has two options: either stop invocations or go back to letting anyone offer them.”

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