Commissioners Defied Advice From Their Own Lawyer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Among the changes, the commission added a preamble, saying the commission is adopting the rules “to ensure that [the county government] is…most importantly, reflective of the Judeo-Christian values inherent in our nation’s founding,” among other reasons. The change came in an update to the commission’s Standing Rules and Procedures — a list of rules the commission follows during meetings.
Just minutes earlier, the county’s interim law director, Ben Allen, advised the group that the change could set the county up for costly discrimination lawsuits. “I just believe that this would be a violation of the First Amendment establishment clause,” Allen told the commission. “The supreme court could change their mind on what ‘violation of the establishment clause’ means tomorrow. It’s very expensive to be the ones to find out if that’s the case.”
Nashville Attorney David Raybin says including language about Judeo-Christian values in the commission’s rules preamble is a clear violation of the first amendment’s ban against the government endorsing religion, and that it would be a “slam dunk” case in court. “It’s so transparent, its obvious a court would have no problem finding this is a violation of the First Amendment,” Raybin said.
The vote was 20-4 to include the Judeo-Christian phrase.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the Sumner County Board of Commissioners a letter requesting them to ‘immediately correct its constitutional violation and remove the reference to Judeo-Christian values from the preamble’.