ACLU warns N.C. Legislature to end its 'sectarian' prayers
The ACLU of North Carolina is warning the state Legislature that it must end the practice of opening sessions of the House and Senate with prayers that are overtly Christian, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appellate case that found that sectarian prayer was a violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause.
The civil liberties group sent a letter this week to the state attorney general urging him to come up with a new policy that would forbid the daily invocations in the chambers from focusing on one religion, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
The letter cites a number of cases to support its contention that, although prayer before legislative bodies is acceptable, proselytizing on behalf of one religion is not. Prominently quoted is a judge’s ruling in the case Joyner v. Forsyth County (N.C.), which was filed by the ACLU in 2007.
In that case, two residents of the county challenged the practice of starting county commission meetings with “sectarian invocations.”
“As our nation becomes more diverse, so also will our faiths,” the ruling reads. “To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord.”
The U.S. Supreme Court announced last month that it had declined to take up the Joyner case. The next chapter in this drama likely will be followed closely in North Carolina, a state where expressions of Christianity are deeply embedded in the culture -- and where religious and ethnic diversity is on the rise.
In Bumcombe County, N.C., earlier this year, a pagan mother was disturbed when her son returned home from public school with a Bible he'd acquired at a giveaway on campus. The woman was turned away at the school when she showed up with pagan spell books for them to distrubute, according to Fox News.
-- Richard Fausset
Illustration: Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times