By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
November 17, 2017
FRANKFORT, KY. – Back in September of this year, Rowan County Commissioners voted unanimously to appeal their prayer case, Lund v. Rowan County, to the United States Supreme Court. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Rowan County policy for public prayer was unconstitutional because the method of elected officials praying in Jesus’ name failed to be non-discriminatory.
Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced that his administration was joining with 20 other states in filing an amicus brief in support of North Carolina’s writ of certiorari asking the High Court to review the Tar Heel prayer case.
Bevin’s administration says that they are petitioning the court, along with West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, to uphold well-established precedents protecting the freedom of prayer at public meetings.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the news provides people of faith across the ‘Old North State’ one more thing for which to be thankful during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“My heart is warmed with a spirit of gratitude at this news,” he said. “Public officials should not have to check their religion at the door. Policies like the one decided by the Fourth Circuit treat religion, more specifically Christianity, as though it’s something to be feared and the Fourth Circuit is the metal detector through which elected officials must pass. It really isn’t hyperbole to say this is a form of tyranny. It’s also a tremendous blessing to see so many states like Kentucky standing with us.”
Dr. Creech said lower federal courts have demonstrated “a sort of legal schizophrenia” with respect to religious liberty. “With regard to prayer you have two conflicting rulings in recent months,” he contended. “The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit in their rulings protected religious liberty. The full Fourth Circuit court, however, reversed their three-judge panel ruling. It’s like they’re saying, ‘Yeah, you can pray according to your conscience. Ah, no you can’t. Yes, you can. No, you can’t! It is absurd that there’s even any question about it.”
Bevin’s amicus brief argues that “Intervention is critical to resolve the disagreement in the lower courts and to preserve the ability of the state and local legislative bodies to accommodate the spiritual needs of lawmakers.” It adds, “This Court should grant review to provide certainty for the thousands of state and local governments that have long allowed lawmaker-led prayer in their proceedings – and thereby continue a tradition that has become part of the fabric of our society.”
The brief also cites two landmark Supreme Court cases dealing with public prayer, Marsh v. Chambers and Town of Greece v. Galloway as legal precedents demonstrating clearly the Fourth Circuit’s decision was “entirely unmoored from [Supreme Court] precedent.”
The Supreme Court’s review of the Lund v. Rowan County “is necessary to undo the 4th Circuit’s erroneous decision, which would sweep away what has long been settled, and threaten to create new controversy and begin anew the very divisions along religious lines that the Establishment Clause seeks to prevent,” says the brief.
“There is much at stake here,” said Dr. Creech. “Will we continue the tradition of allowing freedom of conscience, freedom of religious practice, both private and public? Or will the Highest Court in our land turn a blind eye to a lower court’s interference with religious belief and practice?”
“Lawmaker-led prayer is a common and important form of legislative prayer, which connects lawmakers to a tradition dating to the time of the Framers and allows part-time and volunteer lawmakers to reflect the values they hold as private citizens,” Governor Bevin’s brief adds.
To read the entire amicus brief, click here