A Vermont superior court in St. Albans has ruled in favor of a woman who sued her town for including a prayer during town meeting.
Marilyn Hackett of Franklin argued that the Christian prayer read at the beginning of town meeting each year violated her constitutional right not to attend religious worship.
For decades, Franklin’s town moderator invited a local pastor to read a prayer addressed to the Trinity, honoring the Christian doctrine that God is three divine persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The town had said Hackett doesn’t have to be present for the prayer to participate in the town meeting. But last year Hackett sued the town, and at this year’s meeting town officials decided to suspend the prayer, based on legal advice.
In a statement, the ACLU said the court’s decision is a victory for religious liberty. "In Vermont, people are free to hold their religious viewpoints – or no religious viewpoint – without the government deciding which beliefs are preferred," said Dan Barrett, the ACLU of Vermont staff attorney.
The superior court judge also banned the town from holding future prayers at town meeting.