For the first time in 10 years, Marilyn Hackett was not subjected to listening to a Christian prayer while attending the Franklin town meeting. On Tuesday, the moderator of the meeting announced that due to the pending litigation against the town, the town's legal counsel had advised no prayer be said this year. The meeting then began as other town meetings in the state begin -- getting down to the town's business.

Last week Judge Martin Maley heard arguments in the case at Superior Court in St. Albans. After an hour’s argument, he said he could not issue a decision in the case before town meeting; the issues are too complex, and he had out-of-town commitments, he said.

The suit, brought by the ACLU-VT on Hackett’s behalf, was filed a year ago, on the day of last year’s meeting.

During last week’s court proceeding, the attorney for Franklin, James Carroll, argued that Hackett had the option of leaving the meeting if she didn’t like the opening prayer. Carroll said that prayer has been a part of government functions since the founders wrote the constitution. Hackett is trying to “whitewash history and sanitize the very notion of God,” he asserted.

Hackett’s, attorney, Dan Barrett of the ACLU-VT, countered that asking Hackett to leave was embarrassing and demeaning to her. Singling her out is a violation of the state’s Public Accommodations Act. Government cannot be seen as endorsing any religion. The saying of a Christian prayer before the meeting violates that requirement. Historical examples of prayers before public events don’t override the Article 3 protections in Vermont's constitution, he said.

It’s unclear when Malley may rule.

  • Read the legal documents filed in the case.
  • Read/listen to the VPR story on the suspension of prayer at this year’s Franklin town meeting.