Published On: Thu, Jan 28th, 2016

North Carolina: ADF leads battle to protect prayer before county meetings

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Brett Harvey will be available for media interviews following oral arguments Wednesday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Lund v. Rowan County, a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina county’s prayer policy despite a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the ADF case Town of Greece v. Galloway that upheld prayer at public meetings.

Harvey is co-counsel in defense of the county along with David Gibbs of The National Center for Life and Liberty, Hiram Sasser of Liberty Institute, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP Partner Allyson Ho, who will argue before the 4th Circuit Wednesday.

“All Americans should have the liberty to pray without being censored, just as the Supreme Court found less than two years ago,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “The high court affirmed the freedom of Americans to pray according to their consciences before public meetings. For that reason, the 4th Circuit should uphold Rowan County’s prayer policy, which is clearly constitutional.”

Before a district court ruled against Rowan County’s policy in the lawsuit, which attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed, the county permitted each county commissioner, on a rotating basis, to offer a prayer or have a moment of silence as part of an opening ceremony that included a call to order and the Pledge of Allegiance. The individual commissioner could decide the content of his or her prayer as well as the decision whether to pray or have a moment of silence. No one was required to participate.

Praying Hands (Betende Hände) by Albrecht Dürer

Praying Hands (Betende Hände) by Albrecht Dürer

In its opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court rejected the argument “that legislative prayer may be addressed only to a generic God” and warned that attempts to limit the way people pray are unconstitutional: “Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith.”

As Rowan County’s brief filed with the 4th Circuit explains, the Supreme Court made clear in that case that while “many members of the public find these prayers meaningful and wish to join them…their purpose is largely to accommodate the spiritual needs of lawmakers and connect them to a tradition dating to the time of the Framers…. For members of town boards and commissions, who often serve part-time and as volunteers, ceremonial prayer may also reflect the values they hold as private citizens. The prayer is an opportunity for them to show who and what they are without denying the right to dissent by those who disagree.”


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