Review Requested for N.C. Prayer Case
The ADF petition asks the Supreme Court to review a July 2011 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which upheld a lower court ruling that found the policy unconstitutional and enjoined the county from continuing to implement it as written. In the petition filed on October 27, ADF argues on behalf of Forsyth County that the Fourth Circuit’s “decision distorts this Court’s precedent, imposes an unwieldy requirement that government police the language of prayers, and conflicts with the Eighth and Eleventh Circuits’ decisions holding that substantively identical policies do not violate the Constitution simply because invocations may include ‘sectarian’ references. Since 2008, federal courts in four other circuits have ruled on the question presented here. The Fourth Circuit conflicts with each one by demanding government regulation of indeterminately-defined ‘sectarian’ references in legislative prayer.” The petition asks the Supreme Court to consider the following two questions:
Special Report - October 31, 2011
Attorneys representing the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners filed a petition last week with the United States Supreme Court, asking it to reverse a federal appeals’ court ruling that found the county’s public prayer policy unconstitutional because it allows prayers to specific deities. Forsyth County is represented at no cost in the lawsuit, Joyner v. Forsyth County, by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The case involves a legal challenge to the county’s public invocation policy that was brought in 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on behalf of several Winston-Salem residents, who claim that the prayer policy violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
- “Whether the Establishment Clause compels the government to parse the content of legislative prayers to eliminate ‘sectarian’ references.”
- “Whether the ‘frequent’ presentation of legislative prayers that include a ‘sectarian’ reference violates the Establishment Clause.”
In a press release, ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman noted that opening public meetings with prayer is an American tradition that can be traced to its founders. “We trust the U.S. Supreme Court will want to review this case because of the long history in America of offering prayers before public meetings,” Cortman said. “Public officials shouldn’t be coerced into censoring the prayers of those invited to offer them just because secularist groups don’t like people praying according to their own conscience.”
Prayer Decision Will Be Appealed - August 10, 2011
Court Says No Prayer in Jesus' Name - August 2, 2011
Forsyth Prayer Policy Gets Hearing - May 11, 2011
NCFPC Supports Prayer Policy - June 14, 2010
Forsyth Commissioners Vote to Appeal - February 23, 2010
Jesus' Name Takes Hit In Ruling - February 1, 2010
Appeals Court Upholds Sectarian Prayers at Public Meetings - October 31, 2008
Prayer Lawsuit Filed Against Forsyth County - April 4, 2007
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