Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jesus' Name Unconstitutional in Public: Fed. Court

A federal appeals court sided with the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and members of the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in ruling against the North Carolina Forsyth County Board of Commissioners' invitation to any and all religious leaders to give invocations at its public meetings.

UPDATE 3/27/13: Prayers in Gov't Meetings OK, Says 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

UPDATE 2/2/12: Non-Jesus prayer policy enacted, but ACLU still complains

UPDATE 1/17/12: Atheists win as Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal

UPDATE 10/28/11: Represented by ADF, County Board appeals to Supreme Court

UPDATE 8/9/11: Commissioners vote 6 to 1 to appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

-- From "Federal appeals court says Forsyth commissioners wrong to open meetings with prayer to Jesus" by The Associated Press 7/29/11

In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in favor of two county residents who sued after the prayer before a December 2007 commissioners meeting thanked God for allowing the birth of his son to forgive us for our sins and closed by making the prayer in the name of Jesus.

"Legislative prayer must strive to be nondenominational so long as that is reasonably possible — it should send a signal of welcome rather than exclusion. It should not reject the tenets of other faiths in favor of just one," Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in his ruling.

Judge Paul Niemeyer disagreed, writing in his dissent that Forsyth County allowed believers of any religious faith to give the opening prayer, negating the effect of having a prayer champion only one set of beliefs.

"I respectfully submit that we must maintain a sacred respect of each religion, and when a group of citizens comes together, as does the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and manifests that sacred respect — allowing the prayers of each to be spoken in the religion's own voice — we must be glad to let it be," Niemeyer wrote.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Fourth Circuit rules against Forsyth County in prayer case" posted at Beaufort Observer 7/29/11

On December 17, 2007, [Unitarian Universalists] Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon [members of the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State] decided to attend a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Like all public Board meetings, the gathering began with an invocation delivered by a local religious leader. And like almost every previous invocation, that prayer closed with the phrase, "For we do make this prayer in Your Son Jesus' name, Amen." The December 17 prayer also made a number of references to specific tenets of Christianity, from "the Cross of Calvary" to the "Virgin Birth" to the "Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Federal appeals court rejects sectarian prayer in Forsyth commissioners' meetings" by Lisa O'Donnell and Laura Graff, Winston-Salem Journal 7/29/11

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt said she would like to see the board appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

[Representing the County, Mike] Johnson said Friday's opinion conflicts with decisions by other appeals courts in similar cases, apparently creating a dispute only the nation's highest court can decide. Johnson is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian organization active in church-state issues. The fund is paying the county's costs to litigate the case.

"The idea that a legislative body would have to censor the speakers who come in on a rotational basis to offer an invocation is unprecedented," Johnson said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Federal appeals court: Saying 'Jesus' during public prayer is unconstitutional" by Ken Klukowski, Washington Examiner 7/30/11

As in most counties in America, the Board of Commissioners of Forsyth County, North Carolina, begins its public meetings with an invocation. These prayers are given by local religious leaders on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Given that 95 percent of local religious houses identify as Christian, it’s not surprising that many of the invocations include specifically Christian language, often closing the prayer in the name of “Jesus Christ” or “Jesus.”

Judge Paul Victor Niemeyer, a judicial conservative regarded as one of the smartest judges on the federal bench, wrote in a strong dissent: “Thus … the majority has dared to step in and regulate the language of prayer—the sacred dialogue between humankind and God. Such a decision treats prayer agnostically; reduces it to a civil nicety; … Most frightfully, it will require secular [authorities] to evaluate and parse particular religious prayers…”

This is the latest in a string of disappointing lower court decisions on public prayer. It’s time for the Supreme Court to revisit this issue.

To read the entire opinion column above, CLICK HERE.

Also read, Jesus' Name Unconstitutional at School Board Meetings