ADF: US Supreme Court decision paves way for Forsyth County to resume prayers

ADF attorneys available for media interviews following hearing Thursday
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey
WHAT: Available for media interviews after oral arguments in Joyner v. Forsyth County
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 20, immediately following hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. EST
WHERE: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, 251 N. Main St., Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Brett Harvey will be available for media interviews following a hearing Thursday over whether a federal district court should lift its order against the prayer policy of Forsyth County, N.C., in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming prayer before public meetings in Town of Greece v. Galloway.

After winning that lawsuit in May, ADF attorneys representing Forsyth County asked the district court to lift its order against the county’s prayer policy. The order requires the county to censor the way people pray to ensure only generic prayers are offered at public meetings.

“Community members should have the liberty to pray without being censored, just as the Supreme Court found only a few months ago,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “The court affirmed the freedom of Americans to pray according to their consciences before public meetings. For that reason, we are asking the district court to lift its order against Forsyth County’s prayer policy, which is clearly constitutional.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld the district court’s order in 2011. Although the Supreme Court declined to review the case, it upheld a similar policy from the town of Greece, N.Y., on May 5 and affirmed that Americans are free to pray according to their own beliefs at public meetings. ADF attorneys argue that this clears the way for uncensored prayers to resume in Forsyth County.

In March 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the Forsyth County Commission on behalf of three individuals because they claimed to be offended by simply hearing the invited speakers deliver prayers that included a reference to Jesus Christ or any other named deity. They demanded the county discourage or prohibit invited speakers “from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.”

In its opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court rejected the argument “that legislative prayer may be addressed only to a generic God” and warned that attempts to limit the way people pray are unconstitutional.

“Our tradition assumes that adult citizens, firm in their own beliefs, can tolerate and perhaps appreciate a ceremonial prayer delivered by a person of a different faith,” the court wrote.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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