Charlotte Talks: Rowan County Asks Supreme Court To Settle Prayer Case

Oct 2, 2017

Monday, Oct. 2, 2017

Rowan County commissioners voted unanimously to appeal to the Supreme Court after a federal court ruled the county board's prayers were unconstitutional.
Credit Josh Bergeron / The Salisbury Post

Is a Christian prayer in a government meeting unconstitutional? Rowan County doesn't think so, and has asked the Supreme Court to decide. Mike Collins dives into the case, and what other courts have said.

The separation of church and state has long been debated in this country. One front in that tug of war is playing out in Rowan County, where county leaders are asking the Supreme Court to settle a challenge to the county commission’s practice of opening meetings in prayer.

The county is appealing a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the county’s prayers amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The problem wasn’t the act of prayer, the court said, but the content: the prayers were almost exclusively Christian, and those attending the county commission meetings were urged to join in.

Experts say it’s likely the Supreme Court will take up the matter of prayer in government meetings because of a split within the appellate system. One court struck down the Rowan County prayers, while another court upheld prayers in a Michigan county.

We hear from both sides, and look at what the Supreme Court and others have said about prayer.

GUESTS

Josh Bergeron, The Salisbury Post, associate editor (@RowanPolitics)

Frayda Bluestein, UNC School of Government, David M. Lawrence Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government

Michael Berry, First Liberty Institute, deputy general counsel (@mikeberry77)

Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina, legal director (@ChrisBrookACLU)