Federal judge hears prayer policy arguments

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- A federal judge in Chattanooga says he needs more information to decide whether to halt prayers at Hamilton County Commission meetings.

U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice heard arguments Thursday as two local men sought to bar the prayers at the start of the government meetings while their lawsuit is argued in court.

Mattice set an Aug. 8 deadline for the parties to submit briefs on the constitutionality of the practice.

Plaintiff Tommy Coleman testified Thursday that he felt excluded from the meetings because of the prayers.

Earlier this month, commission members unanimously approved a formal policy that invites clergy to offer prayer.

A few weeks later, Knox County Commission members adopted a written policy on public prayer before their meetings.

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