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ICC Note: In March 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against commissioners in Rowan County, North Carolina regarding their prayers during public meetings. After more than four years of legal proceedings, a court of appeals has now ruled that the prayers during these meetings cannot be exclusively Christian, or else they will be in violation of the US Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The commission is currently considering appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

By Heather Clark

07/17/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – The full Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia has ruled that the prayers presented during a North Carolina commission’s meetings cannot be exclusively Christian, asserting that representing only one faith at the public-attended government events violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“We conclude that the Constitution does not allow what happened in Rowan County,” wrote Judge Harvie Wilkinson wrote on behalf of the 10-5 majority. “The prayer practice served to identify the government with Christianity and risked conveying to citizens of minority faiths a message of exclusion.”

As previously reported, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) had filed suit against the Rowan County commissioners in March 2013, complaining that their invocations have asserted that “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” and thank the Lord for the “virgin birth,” the “cross at Calvary” and “the resurrection.”

“I want my local government to be open and welcoming to people of all beliefs,” Nan Lund, a local resident who was among three plaintiffs named in the suit, stated in a news release announcing the legal challenge. “But when officials begin a public meeting with prayers that are specific to only one religious viewpoint, I feel unwelcome and excluded.”

In July 2013, federal Judge James A. Beaty Jr., nominated to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton, sided with the ACLU and the three complainants, ordering the commissioners to end their Christian prayer practice while the case moves forward in court.

Two years later, Beaty issued his final decision, declaring the prayers predominantly in Jesus’ name to be unconstitutional.

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