prayer

Rowan County offices in Salisbury.
Rowan County

The First Amendment prohibits establishment of an official religion in the U.S.  When a government body steers too close to that, federal courts have stepped in to decide what's legal and what's not.  The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, now is considering a case from Rowan County, northeast of Charlotte. At issue is whether county commissioners should be allowed to lead Christian prayers before their meetings. WFAE's David Boraks has been following the case, and talked with All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse
Taber Andrew Bain from Richmond, VA, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A federal appeals court will decide whether it's legal for Rowan County's elected commissioners to lead Christian prayers at meetings. All 15 judges on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia.

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., has agreed to re-hear a case on whether it's legal for Rowan County commissioners to deliver Christian prayers before their meetings. That invalidates a September ruling by a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the practice was constitutional.

A federal appeals court says it's legal for Rowan County Commissioners to deliver prayers before their meetings. The decision out Monday reverses a lower court ruling that declared the practice unconstitutional.

Rowan County commissioners can no longer open public meetings with a prayer if it’s given by them. A federal court ruled the practice is discriminatory.

Federal Judge Hears Arguments On PrayerA federal judge in Winston-Salem hears arguments Thursday on sectarian prayers before meetings of Forsyth County commissioners. The county's attorneys want US District Judge James Beaty to drop a 2010 order that banned commissioners from having clergy deliver pre-meeting prayers that refer to Jesus Christ or other deities. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year that a New York town’s inclusive policy did not violate the Constitution by allowing ministers to deliver Christian prayers at meetings. Forsyth County had used a similar practice before it was blocked by an earlier court order. The ACLU says the rules in Forsyth County allow only religious leaders from established local congregations to participate. They say that does not follow the Supreme Court ruling, which calls for all faiths and beliefs to be allowed to take part. 

Rowan County

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that opening prayers with references to Christianity during government meetings do not violate the U.S. Constitution.

This decision may impact a trial in Rowan County filed by residents who say they feel excluded when county commissioners open council meetings in the name of Jesus.

Rowan County

Prayers in government meetings have received a lot of attention in North Carolina. The ACLU has sued the Rowan County Commission, and another group has threatened to sue the Union County Commission for what they say are “sectarian prayers.”

As the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up a similar case from New York next week, we explore what the case could mean for North Carolina.


Lawsuits Prompt Pause For Some Sectarian Prayers

Aug 6, 2013

The longstanding practice of opening Charlotte-area government meetings with a Christian prayer has come under increasing attack by residents and outside groups.

It’s a battle that is also unfolding from California to New York, and the issue is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. When government prayers invoke Jesus, civil liberties groups and other critics say it violates constitutional rights.

Michael Bitzer
WFAE

In the Bible belt that is the South, the role of church and state are often intertwined in such a manner as to appear one in the same.  But when it comes to divorcing the Christian faith from government practices, you begin to see the truth in the expression “the devil made me do it.”

Typically, the South is the only region in the nation where a majority of voters describe themselves as either “born-again” or “Evangelical Christians” in the exit polls.

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