Last night, Rowan County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a July ruling from a federal appeals court that found that the commissioners violated the Constitution when they opened public meetings by coercing public participation in prayers that overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion.
The ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and the ACLU of North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging the commissioners’ coercive prayer practice in March 2013 on behalf of three Rowan County residents (pictured).
The 10-5 July ruling from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling.
“The bottom line is that local government meetings should be welcoming to all community members, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook in response to the commissioners' vote. “The issues in this case have already been thoroughly reviewed by two federal courts, which agreed that Rowan County's former practice was unconstitutional. We believe those rulings should be the final word in this case, but no matter what, we will continue defending the rights of our clients and all Rowan County residents to be free from religious coercion by government officials.”