Federal Judge Sandy Mattice, in a 37-page ruling released Wednesday morning, denied a motion for a preliminary injunction blocking opening prayers at the Hamilton County Commission meetings.
Judge Mattice set an Oct. 2 hearing in which to schedule trial of the case on its merits.
He said in the ruling the County Commission had several options on the prayer issue and "The Commission has chosen the fourth of these four options, and it is entirely within its rights to do so. However, in so choosing, it has assumed – on its own behalf and on behalf of the citizens and taxpayers of Hamilton County – the responsibility of ensuring that its policy is implemented in a manner that respects both the rights of its citizens and the commands of the First Amendment. Whether it will actually effect its policy in such a fashion has yet to be seen."
Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones had sued the county to try to stop the prayers, saying they promoted the Christian religion.
The commission afterward adopted a policy of rotating area ministers on a first come-first serve basis for the prayers.
Judge Mattice said, "This case presents a unique question, the legal underpinnings of which the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has yet to address."
He said, "The Court cannot say that Hamilton County’s prayer policy, on its face, violates the Establishment Clause. It appears to the Court that, at least as written, the policy strives for neutrality. The policy specifically states it is not intended to “proselytize or advance any particular faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others."
Here is the full opinion