As most people are aware by now, a great victory for the First Amendment occurred yesterday. It happened when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of last summer’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Forsyth County’s practice of opening County Commissioners’ meetings with sectarian prayer.
Way to go ACLU of North Carolina!
If you’re harboring any questions about what the case was really about or what was decided, read the Court of Appeals’ excellent decision in which it spells out in great detail the explicit and overtly Christian nature of the many prayers in question.
This was the court’s excellent conclusion:
“George Washington once observed that “[r]eligious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.” Letter from George Washington to Edward Newenham (June 22, 1792). As our nation becomes more diverse, so also will our faiths. To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord. In churches, homes, and private settings beyond number, citizens practice diverse faiths that lift and nurture both personal and civic life. But in their public pursuits, Americans respect the manifold beliefs of fellow citizens by abjuring sectarianism and embracing more inclusive themes. That the Board and religious leaders in Forsyth County hold steadfast to their faith is certainly no cause for condemnation. But where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance. The policy here, as implemented, upsets the careful balance the First Amendment seeks to bring about.”