Shirkey signs legal brief in support of Jackson community’s prayer at public meetings

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey and state Rep. Julie Alexander have signed an amicus brief in support of Jackson County in its court case concerning prayer at Jackson County Board of Commissioners meetings.

Shirkey said the prayers are an example of free speech.

“Opening with prayer at public meetings is not prohibited by our Constitution and actually has a long history in our state and country,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Those words are as free as the ones you’re reading in this paper. We are eager to see this suit resolved in support of free speech.”

The case in Jackson County came to light after a resident said he was offended by the opening prayers at county commissioner meetings after he began attending in 2013.

The person brought a lawsuit against Jackson County, and the case is now before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Alexander said local government officials have opened meetings the same way for many years, without incident.

“As a former Jackson County commissioner who has personally opened commission meetings with prayer, I will always support free speech and all rights as provided and protected by our Constitution,” said Alexander, R-Hanover.

In a show of support, legislators from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee and three former Kentucky governors have signed the brief.

The next step will be the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which is expected on or after June 14.