Why can’t we just vote on whether we pray to Jesus at legislative sessions? – By Dahlia Lithwick – Slate Magazine

Why can’t we just vote on whether we pray to Jesus at legislative sessions? – By Dahlia Lithwick – Slate Magazine.

Sacred Sessions

Why can’t we just vote on whether we pray to Jesus at county board meetings?

On December 17, 2007, Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon decided to attend a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Like all public Board meetings, the gathering began with an invocation delivered by a local religious leader. And like almost every previous invocation, that prayer closed with the phrase, “For we do make this prayer in Your Son Jesus’ name, Amen.”

So begins Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, writing in Joyner v. Forsyth County, a 2-1 decision invalidating the Board of Commissioners of Forsyth County, N.C.’s policy of beginning legislative meetings with prayers—more often than not, prayers offered in Jesus’ name.

Concluding last week that the board’s policy of inviting local religious leaders to offer sectarian invocations prior to legislative sessions runs afoul of both the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and years of Supreme Court precedent, the majority of the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the policy could not stand. Before the federal appeals court arrived at this conclusion, a magistrate judge had also concluded that the prayers “display[ed] a preference for Christianity over other religions by the government” and “affiliate[d] the Board with a specific faith or belief.” A federal district judge agreed, finding that the policy violated the Establishment Clause and enjoining the board from continuing the sectarian prayers.

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Read the full story here: Slate Magazine

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Filed under 1st Amendment, Constitution, Religion, Supreme Court, USA

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