In a divided 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit just reversed the lower court ruling from last year that found Christian-only, Commissioner-led prayers in Rowan County unconstitutional. The ACLU will be appealing today's decision to the full Forth Circuit.
As these are always "fact-sensitive cases," I want to draw your attention to this quote from the Forth Circuit's majority opinion released today:
"The Board's practice here, where each commissioner gives their own prayer without oversight, input, or direction by the Board simply does not present the same concerns of the 'government' [attempting] to define permissible categories of religious speech."Now try to square that with this quote from Rowan Commissioner Jon Barber when the Commissioners starting praying behind closed doors in 2013 in reaction to the lawsuit:
"The holy bible reflects the views of this Board of Commissioners."And as David Gibbs III, lead attorney for Rowan County commissioners, told a crowd at a "Return America" rally later in 2013, you just can't have a prayer without Jesus because...
"If you have prayer without Jesus, you just formed a non-Jesus religion."I'm sure glad nobody is attempting to define permissible categories of religious speech in Rowan County. Note that Greece v Galloway was a 5-4 decision, so the next U.S. President will appoint the deciding vote in cases like this in the future...
|Ron Baity, president of Return America. Photo Credit: Winston-Salem Journal.|
- Americans United. "Coercive Municipal Prayer Upheld In North Carolina – For Now."
- Dahlia Lithwick. "State-Sponsored Christianity: A federal appeals court just told religious minorities to stop being so whiny."
Update: ACLU (1 Nov 2016) — “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit announced yesterday that the full court would reconsider [this] September 2–1 panel decision…”