Court Strikes Down County Commission’s Prayers

A federal court in North Carolina has ruled that a pre-meeting prayer routine in Rowan county they’ve been using is unconstitutional even after the Greece v Galloway decision from the Supreme Court. The difference here is that it was the commission members that delivered the prayers, not local citizens.

A federal judge in Winston-Salem ruled Monday that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ practice of opening public meetings with their own Christian prayers between 2007 and 2013 violated the U.S. Constitution.

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.”

This ruling is absolutely correct, of course. Greece said that a local legislative body could have prayers before meetings, but it must be non-discriminatory. But by having the commissioners do it, all of them Christian, all other beliefs are locked out of the process.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
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  • Synfandel

    Were I a citizen of Winston-Salem, I would be inclined to offer a voluntary opening prayer from the floor—which I gather from the Greece v Galloway decision could be legally acceptable—and then instead use the time to berate the commissioners for wasting public time and money on religious observances when the should be working like the rest of us.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    TYPICAL LIBERALACTIVISTJUDGES!!! HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE DISCRIMINATROY?!!! THE PEOPLE™ ELECTED THEM!!! LOOK IF YOU MINORITIES WANT YOUR ANTICHRISTIAN FOREIGN PRAYERS READ OUT BEFORE PUBLIC MEETINGS YOU SHOULD SHOULD ELECT A COMMISSIONAIRE OR FIVE LIKE WE DID!!!*

     

    * THEN WELL STOP DOING IT!!!

  • Georgia Sam

    I wonder if those people ever read their Bibles.

    Matthew 6: 5-6

    And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.

  • pixiedust

    I note in the photo at the link that the commissioners are all standing and, from the judge’s ruling, I’d guess that everyone is asked to stand for the prayer. I think that the It would be fun to lead a prayer and tell the crowd they had to do something silly and unusual during the prayer. Lie down the floor. Face north by northwest. Close their right eye. Whatever. And then incorporate that into the prayer while also imploring god not to punish the city/county for the behavior of those who refuse to show the proper humility.

  • lofgren

    This seems to me like the type of excessive technicality that makes people disrespectful and suspicious of the courts, most especially the Supremes (yes, I realize they were not the judges here but they are guilty of the same degree of hairsplitting). The inevitable logical conclusion of this statement, which is absolutely correct:

    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…

    is that no prayer should be allowed at government meetings, full stop.

    Let those county commissioners make their decisions based on skin color, age, and attire alone, and leave religion out of it.