By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 14, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Arguments heard by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month involve a case in Greece, N.Y., but could have ramifications for government bodies across the nation, particularly in North Carolina, where more than one board of county commissioners has been ordered not to allow pre-meeting prayer in Jesus’ name.
The High Court case, on which a ruling is not expected until next spring, began more than six years ago when Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens sued the town of Greece because they were offended by Christian prayers offered before meetings. Even though the town’s policy was inclusive, allowing representatives from any and all faiths to offer an invocation, few non-Christians were interested. In fact, only four out of 127 prayers were offered by other groups.
“The town was responsible for the invitation, which was completely inclusive, not who accepted the request to offer the invocation,” wrote radio host Janet Parshall in a column for the Christian Post.
Nonetheless, when Americans United for Separation of Church and State helped the women sue, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor.
“Thankfully, this case didn’t end there,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the city, persuaded the Supreme Court to take up the matter.”
It is the first time in three decades it has done so. In Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, Justices upheld the constitutionality of legislative prayers, saying that opening meetings with an invocation is part of the “fabric of our society.” But legal experts say it is difficult to predict how the current High Court will rule after hearing arguments Nov. 6.
According to ADF attorneys, the core questions are “whether the Constitution permits meetings to open with an invocation for Divine guidance; if so, do individuals retain the liberty to choose for themselves how to pray; or must the government censor prayers, or exclude the devout whose faith calls for specific types of prayers?”
That liberty to pray as conscience dictates has been denied Rowan County commissioners who remain under an injunction prohibiting sectarian prayers while the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the board makes its way through the courts.
Another high profile North Carolina prayer case involved Forsyth County, where the Board of Commissioners came under attack. The 4th Circuit Court ruled in July 2011 that even though the commission, similar to the board in Greece, N.Y., invited all faith groups to sign up to pray, its policy was unconstitutional because the majority of those who responded chose to pray to Jesus in His name.
“We were very disappointed that the Supreme Court chose not to take up the Forsyth case,” Dr. Creech said. “We’re glad they are now eyeing this issue and hope their ruling will resolve conflicts between rulings in the 4th and 11th Circuits.”
“As the High Court considers prayer in town halls and government bodies across the nation, we pray that they will uphold Americans’ freedom of religion and put an end to the bullying tactics of the ACLU and groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State,” he added.
“We all know our founding fathers never intended for prayer to be banned from the public square as they prayed before the first sessions of the Continental Congress. And of course, both Houses of Congress begin each session with prayer. It is truly an integral part of our nation’s heritage and an unalienable right as Americans.”