Tuesday, August 11, 2015

13 States vs. ACLU: Rowan County, NC Prayer Battle

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that Christians have a constitutional right to pray in Jesus' name at government meetings, one federal judge apparently "didn't get the memo" as U.S. District Judge James Beaty ruled in May that it's unconstitutional for Rowan County Commissioners to pray in opening public meetings.  The Commission filed its appeal to the 4th Circuit Court two weeks ago, and since then over a dozen states have filed to support the appeal.

For background, read Praying Crowds vs. ACLU in Rowan County North Carolina as well as U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Allows Christian Prayer in Civic Meetings

Also read Most States Tell Supreme Court: We Pray in Jesus' Name

-- From "West Virginia, 12 other states urge federal appeals court to overturn ruling on prayer at public meetings" posted at The State Journal (Charles, WV) 8/10/15

The coalition recently filed an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief in the case of Lund v Rowan County, currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. West Virginia is in the Fourth Circuit.

In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled legislative prayer was constitutional and not in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause as long as the prayer didn’t proselytize, advance or disparage any one religion. In 2014, the Supreme Court held that officials can participate in legislative prayer before government meetings in cities and counties as well as in state legislatures and Congress.  However, the district court in North Carolina held that lawmakers may not themselves lead prayers before government meetings, and instead must have a member of the public lead any prayers that are offered.

The States argue that a Fourth Circuit decision upholding the lower court ruling would eliminate an important and widely used method of prayer at public meetings, and would harm local governments that cannot afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Morrisey leads coalition supporting prayer at public meetings" by Chris Dickerson, West Virginia Record 8/10/15

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office is leading a 13-state coalition to urge a federal appeals court to uphold public officials’ right to pray at public meetings.

“West Virginia and other states filed this brief because lawmakers have opened legislative sessions with prayer since the founding of our Republic,” Morrisey said in a statement. “West Virginia has a proud tradition of beginning public meetings with a time for prayer, including prayers in which lawmakers participate.

"This practice should be permitted to continue and the free expression of faith should not be quashed.”

Attorneys General from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas joined West Virginia in the amicus brief.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Rowan gains support from federal officials, other states in prayer lawsuit" by Josh Bergeron, Salisbury (North Carolina) Post 8/5/15

. . . U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, led a bipartisan group of 17 other lawmakers in signing onto an amicus brief supporting Rowan. Both documents were filed with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court on Monday.

All three members of the House of Representatives with districts in Rowan — Rep. Alma Adams, D-12; Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5; and Hudson, signed onto support Rowan County in its lawsuit. Hudson said he personally asked Adams and Foxx to support the amicus briefs because their districts extend into Rowan.

Reps. G.K. Butterfield, D-1, Renee Ellmers, R-2, and David Price, D-4, were the only members of the U.S. House of Representatives not to sign the amicus brief. Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, also didn’t sign onto the resolution. All other members of Congress representing North Carolina are listed as supporting the amicus brief. Democrat and former N.C. Rep. Mike McIntyre is also listed.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Rowan County commissioners appeal ruling in prayer case" posted at WXII-TV12 (Winston-Salem, NC) 7/28/15

Local media outlets report the Texas nonprofit Liberty Institute filed the 44-page brief on behalf of the commissioners on Monday. Commissioners voted last month to file an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeal cites a New York state case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that town boards can start meetings with sectarian prayer delivered by clergy and others of various faiths.

In May, U.S. District Judge James Beaty held that the commissioners violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which bans government endorsement of a single religion. Beaty also said the commissioners' actions fell outside of the New York decision.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Rowan County files appeal in Christian prayer case" by Adam Bell, Charlotte Observer 7/28/15

Rowan commissioners voted unanimously last month to appeal the case to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

In its 44-page brief filed Monday, Liberty Institute cited the Greece case, and a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in arguing for a reversal of the district court.

“Once the Supreme Court decided Greece, this should have been an easy case to resolve in the county’s favor,” the institute wrote. “The district court’s contrary decision ... does not merely misread Greece but overrules it.”

A hearing before the appeals court might take place late this year or early next year.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Court rules against Rowan commissioners’ prayers" by Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer 5/4/15

U.S. District Judge James Beaty of the Middle District of North Carolina wrote in his decision that the prayers advanced the commissioners’ Christian faith at the exclusion of other religions and effectively coerced participation by members of the public attending the meetings. Beaty also made permanent a temporary injunction from 2013 that forbade the commissioners from delivering their own prayers before the meetings.

“When plaintiffs wish to advocate for local issues in front of the board, they should not be faced with the choice between staying seated and unobservant, or acquiescing in the prayer practice of the board,” Beaty wrote. “The board’s practice fails to be non-discriminatory, entangles government with religion, and over time establishes a pattern of prayers that tends to advance the Christian faith of the elected commissioners at the expense of any religious denomination unrepresented by the majority.”

“While an all-comers policy is not necessarily required, a nondiscriminatory one is,” Beaty wrote. “When all faiths but those of the five elected commissioners are excluded, the policy inherently discriminates and disfavors religious minorities.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.