The Freedom From Religion Foundation, together with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, filed a federal lawsuit on July 7, 2015, challenging censorship of nontheists by Brevard County (Fla.) Board of County Commissioners. The lawsuit asserts that Brevard County's persistent rejection of atheists, humanists and other nontheists who want to deliver solemnizing messages to start meetings violates the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.
The plaintiffs in the case include the Central Florida Freethought Community (a chapter of FFRF) and its chair David Williamson; the Space Coast Freethought Association and its president Chase Hansel; the Humanist Community of the Space Coast and its president Keith Becher; and Brevard County resident Ronald Gordon.
Litigators include Alex Luchenitser and Legal Fellow Joshua Hoffer at Americans United; Nancy Abudu and Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida; and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief; and FFRF Senior Staff AttorneyRebecca S. Markert and Staff Attorney Andrew L. Seidel.
The case, Williamson v. Brevard County no. 6:15-cv-01098-JA-DAB, has been assigned to Senior District Judge John Antoon, a Clinton appointee, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando division.
On September 30, 2017, Judge Antoon struck down the Brevard County, Fla., Board of County Commissioners’ exclusion of nontheists from giving pre-meeting invocations ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor.
- Press release
- Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
- Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
- Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
- Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
- Decision and Order
- Appellant/Cross-Appellee Brevard County's Initial Brief
- Brief of Appellees/Cross-Appellants David Williamson, et al.
- Appellant/Cross-Appellee Brevard County's Reply and Response Brief
- Reply Brief of Appellees/Cross-Appellants David Williamson, et al.
Oral arguments were held on March 12, 2019.
The lawsuit was settled on February 11, 2020 in FFRF’s favor. The Brevard County Board of Commissioners will have to pay $430,000 in court costs and legal fees, as well as $60,000 in damages.