NCFPC Supports Prayer Policy
Special Report - June 14, 2010
The North Carolina Family Policy Council (NCFPC) recently joined four groups from four states in filing an amicus brief supporting the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ appeal to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a lawsuit challenging the Board’s policy to allow prayer before public meetings. The brief, which was filed May 26, is one of seven from groups across the country that have been filed in support of the prayer policy of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, which is being defended by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). Those seven briefs were filed by the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, VA, the National Legal Foundation of Virginia Beach, VA, the Retired Judges of America of Baton Rouge, LA, the Independence Law Center of Harrisburg, PA, the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery, AL, and the Justice and Freedom Fund of California. Joining the NCFPC in its brief were the North Carolina Partnership for Religious Liberty, the Palmetto Family Council, the Family Foundation of Virginia, and the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. The groups are described in the brief as “independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit research and education organizations dedicated to the preservation of religious liberties and traditional family values.”
In 2007, two residents of Forsyth Countyrepresented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and Statesued the County Board of Commissioners over the prayer practice that allows visiting clergy who give the opening prayer at board meetings to invoke the names of specific deities and to make sectarian references in their prayers. ACLU attorney Katherine Parker told the Winston-Salem Journal, “We feel that our case is as strong as it could be as far as precedents in the 4th Circuit and the Supreme Court have said, that sectarian prayer is unconstitutional and against the First Amendment.” To date, the ACLU has not filed its response to the county’s appeal, which must be done before June 21, and before any amicus briefs may be filed on behalf of the ACLU’s position.
The NCFPC brief pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Marsh v. Chambers, which “reasoned that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer was ‘deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country’ and therefore upheld the Nebraska legislature’s practice of beginning each session with prayer offered by a state-paid chaplain.” As part of this historical consideration, the brief went on to state that Congress, state legislatures, and “hundreds and potentially thousands of local government bodies across the country, like Forsyth County, open their meetings with prayer.” Tellingly, the brief noted that, “In the last year alone, at least 23 Congressional prayers have been offered in the name of Jesus Christ, and one study concluded that between 1990 and 1996, over 250 such prayers included supplications to Jesus Christ.” The brief emphasized, “Forsyth County’s invocation policy, which does not compel but merely allows sectarian prayers, permits nothing more than what Congresses and presidents have allowedeven mandatedfor over two centuries.”
The NCFPC brief concluded, “A per se rule prohibiting the mention of a particular deity is a rigid and formalistic approach which is not mandated by the Court’s precedents and which evinces a government hostility to religion and a betrayal of our nations’ heritage.”
See links below for our previous stories on the details and history of this case.
Jesus' Name Takes Hit In Ruling
Forsyth Appeal Decision Pending
Forsyth Commissioners Vote To Appeal
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