Manatee commission will keep praying before its meetings

MANATEE -- Manatee County commissioners this week reaffirmed its practice of beginning meetings with a prayer.

Citing Florida circuit law and federal case law, Manatee County Chief Deputy County Attorney Jim Minix told commissioners that the county attorney’s Office believes the practice does not violate any law, according to a news release Wednesday.

“We’re not trying to impose any particular religion on the public or at the meeting,” Minix said in the release. “We try very hard to make it as open and non-denominational as possible.”

The county has received two letters from groups opposing the prayer before meetings, but Minix no lawsuit has been filed.

In a memo to the board earlier this year, Minix stated the commission “has the right to open the meetings with prayer,” and suggested that some adjustments to the procedures for soliciting presenters who deliver the invocation. Since that time, the county has called on presenters from a full spectrum of religions with operations in Manatee County, according to the release.

County Attorney Tedd Williams said last week he did not think there were constitutional grounds for a complaint against prayer before the meetings based upon recent rulings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Judicial Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal cases originating in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.