US Appeals court says Rowan County meeting prayers constitutional

Carlos Barria | Reuters
A pedestrian walks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

RICHMOND — The United State Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision Monday upholding the right of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to hold a regular prayer before commencing a meeting. The prayers had previously been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Middle District Court after suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing Rowan County residents.”Under the Supreme Court’s most recent decision explaining legislative prayer,” the decision reads, “we find the Board’s legislative prayer practice constitutional and reverse the decision of the district court.”The decision comes after months of deliberations, being the oral arguments concluded in January.Writing for the majority, Judge G. Steven Agee did not mince words when asserting the district court was wrong to label the prayers unconstitutional.”The Board’s legislative prayer practice falls with in our recognized tradition and does not coerce participation by non-adherents,” wrote Agee. “It is therefore constitutional. The district court erred in concluding to the contrary.”The ACLU is appealing the decision, asking it be heard by the full bench of the U.S. Appeals Court’s Fourth Circuit.”Today’s ruling is out of step with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty for all, and we will ask the full appellate court to review this decision,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina.