Forsyth County Pre-Meeting Prayers are Upheld as Unconstitutional

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina used to begin their meetings with a Christian prayer. Not just non-denominational any-god-will-do prayers, but overwhelmingly one-sided Christian prayers:

The undisputed record shows that the prayers delivered at the outset of Board meetings from May 29, 2007 through December 15, 2008 referred to Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ, or Savior with overwhelming frequency… No non- Christian deities are invoked… These prayers as a whole cannot be considered non- sectarian or civil prayer. They display a preference for Christianity over other religions by the government.

There has been a battle over the legality of these prayers for years now. First, a local judge, and later, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, said this practice violated the Establishment Clause and put a stop to it. Now, the case can finally be put to rest. The Supreme Court doesn’t want to hear any further appeals:

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to hear an appeal of a lower court’s decision banning sectarian prayer at meetings of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners…

“All Americans ought to feel welcome at governmental meetings,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a statement. “The Constitution clearly forbids government to play favorites when it comes to religion.”

The county board of commissioners appealed multiple lower court rulings that determined the explicitly sectarian prayers couldn’t be offered. It wasn’t clear how much money the litigation has cost the county since 2007, and calls to commissioners were not immediately returned Tuesday.

I hope it cost them a lot and I hope citizens in the area vote those commissioners out of office for wasting their tax money and time. This was a court case that never should’ve happened. It had to be fought only because Christians insisted that prayer must precede a government meeting. Maybe now they’ll learn their lesson.

Or, judging by this FOX News headline, maybe they still have a long way to go:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    “civil prayer” *facepalm*

    Yeah, I know the US has the concept of a “civil religion”. It’s just that it’s absurd

  • Alex

    Getting rid of interfaith/muslim/atheist communities: protecting our national heritage. Preventing mandatory christian prayers from schools and government meetings: oppression of christians. Being so dense as to not see a dissonance here: priceless.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Why do I even bother to read the comments posted over at Fox? 

  • Jerke Wadde

    I like how in Foxnewsese, halting an unconstitutional practice equals “banning” it.  

  • Dan W

    It’s Fox News. I would be amazed if they actually reported a news story like this one accurately.

  • Greisha

    Now wait – somebody will blame atheists for money that county spent defending unconstitutional practice.

  • Monado

    Civil religion is when you sacrifice for the health of the Emperor as a minor god. 


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