Marilyn Hackett brought suit against the Town of Franklin last year, contending that the town’s longstanding practice of including a Christian prayer during its annual town meeting violated Article 3 of the Vermont Constitution, which guarantees “that no person ought to, or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship.”
For the last ten years, after the town meeting has started, the moderator has called a local minister to lead the voters in a prayer to “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Ms. Hackett objected each year to the prayer, but the town did not stop the practice.
In a ruling dated May 30, 2012, the superior court in St. Albans sided with Ms. Hackett, concluding that the annual prayer is religious worship, and that the town has impermissibly compelled voters to attend the worship by having it during town meeting. The court issued a permanent injunction forbidding the town from having the prayer in the future, and will hold a hearing on the amount of damages to award Ms. Hackett.
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