American Humanist Association Tells Wilmington City Council To Stop Unconstitutional Prayers at Meetings

The Wilmington City Council (in North Carolina) has invited local pastors to deliver invocation prayers for a while now. Not generic “let’s pray to God” invocations… but specific “Let’s pray to Jesus” ones.

Wilmington City Hall

The American Humanist Association has documented it and the Appignani Humanist Legal Center is ready to pounce:

The recordings of the city council meetings posted on your website reveal that many meetings from June 21, 2011 through June 19, 2012, opened with a sectarian prayer. The prayers frequently mention “Jesus,” quote the Bible, or are traditional Christian prayers. Given these facts, the city’s actions are quite clearly in violation of the Establishment Clause and therefore unconstitutional.

Lawyer Bill Burgess cites the following violations (PDF):

The following sectarian prayers were offered using the language quoted on the dates indicated: 6/19/2012 (The Lord’s Prayer), 5/1/2012 (“In the name of Christ Jesus”), 12/6/2011 (Trisagion prayer, Lord’s Prayer), 11/15/2011 (“In the name of Christ Jesus”), 11/1/2011 (Matthew 20:28), 10/18/2011 (Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30), 10/4/2011 (“Our redeemer”), 9/20/2011 (“God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”), 9/6/2011 (“In the beautiful name of Christ Jesus”), 8/16/2011 (“Jesus”), 8/2/2011 (“Jesus”).

If the City Council doesn’t respond within a week, litigation may occur. And the City Council will lose:

“Sectarian prayers before public governmental meetings are unconstitutional because it amounts to an official endorsement of the particular religion that the prayers reflect,” wrote Appignani Legal Center Director William J. Burgess in his letter. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has been very clear in its cases interpreting the Establishment Clause in this area.”

“The Wilmington City Council should create an environment where everyone is welcome,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “By continuing to include prayers that openly endorse a single religion, the council is telling Wilmington citizens outside that faith that they are unwelcome.”

*Hemant puts on party hat*

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