ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Katy Parker authored a Feb. 22 op-ed in the Salisbury Post responding to several articles and statements about the ACLU urging the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to cease holding unconstitutional sectarian prayer at public meeting. "By continuing to hold government-sponsored sectarian prayer, the Commissioners are not only violating the law, but making Rowan County less welcoming to religious minorities and to the constitutional principle of religious freedom," Parker writes.
Katy Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement today in response to statements from House Speaker Thom Tillis and House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam regarding an ACLU-NCLF letter sent on Feb. 2 to Attorney General Roy Cooper:
"A crucial component of an individual’s freedom of religion and belief is for the government to remain neutral on matters of religion and not show a preference for one individual's views over another's. This fundamentally American concept is a bedrock of our democracy and was enshrined by our Founders into the Constitution's First Amendment. As private individuals, members of the General Assembly are free to pray on their own in whatever way they choose. But when a prayer is used in a government chamber to open the legislature representing North Carolinians of all faiths and beliefs, the law clearly states that the prayer cannot be specific to one religion, whether offered by a legislator or by an invited prayer-giver. This practice ensures that North Carolinians of all beliefs can participate in their government without feeling alienated or excluded."
RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper outlining constitutional concerns about the ongoing use of sectarian prayers to open meetings of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). Several legislators and members of the community have contacted the ACLU-NCLF to express concern about the frequent practice of convening sessions of the NCGA with sectarian prayer.
The letter comes after the U.S. Supreme Court announced last month that it would not review a July ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of ACLU-NCLF clients who objected to the frequent use of sectarian prayer by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. In that case, Joyner v. Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Court ruled that sectarian prayer in a government setting was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
“We recommend that you adopt a policy to ensure that the NCGA halts the practice of opening sessions and any meetings with sectarian invocations,” wrote Katy Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCLF, in today’s letter to Attorney General Cooper. Citing case law, Parker points out in the letter that “the NCGA is still permitted to open its sessions with a prayer, so long as the prayer is nonsectarian.”...
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will not review a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit finding that the Forsyth County, North Carolina, Board of Commissioners violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by opening an estimated four-fifths of public meetings with sectarian prayer.
The case, Joynerv. Forsyth County, was filed in 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF), and the Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on behalf of Janet Joyner and Constance Blackmon.
The two women are longtime Forsyth County residents who had attended meetings of the County Board of Commissioners and objected to the sectarian invocations that were routinely delivered by clergy at meetings. A U.S. magistrate judge, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled the prayers unconstitutional, holding that their content amounted to a government endorsement of Christianity over other belief systems....