And indeed, they are unconstitutional:
Federal District Court Judge James A. Beaty this morning ruled that Forsyth County is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing prayers with sectarian references before meetings of the county board of commissioners.
Beaty ordered the county to stop allowing prayers under its current policy, which had come under fire from those who said that the county was promoting Christianity because most of the prayers have made reference to Jesus.
Beaty gave the county several options in his order. He said that the county could choose to open meetings without a prayer, or could require that prayers contain no sectarian references.
Mike Johnson, the attorney representing the county, told commissioners this morning that he hopes they will appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. That court traditionally also has ruled against sectarian prayer at public meetings.
Today's ruling by Beaty confirms what a magistrate recommended in November. The lawsuit was filed in March 2007 by several county residents, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union. They asked that the commission only allow non-sectarian prayer at meetings; in those, references to God are allowed, but to specific deities such as Jesus Christ or Buddha are not.
The lawsuit prompted other counties to study their policies on invocations before public meetings. Several, such as Yadkin County, changed their policies to eliminate sectarian prayer. Others, such as the Winston-Salem City Council, have held off, saying they would wait to see the outcome of the Forsyth County case.
And now it is time for the people of Winston-Salem to speak up in insane rants to the newspaper:
- My guess is this judge thinks we all came from monkeys. This is stupid. This country was founded on the basis of the bible. Nothing else. People of different countries with different relgions, close your ears. We can't go to any other country and be allowed to do this crap to their meetings. And atheist, well we all know your going to HELL.
- I always knew that devils/demons controlled our government. It's really starting to show though.
- The ruling is clearly simply against Christianity. What is the justification for allowing any prayer? There is no law or constitutional clause that creates a differentiation between Christian and non-Christian prayer. And there is no law or clause prohibiting prayer. These judges are just making things up.
This third comment amuses me. No, there is no law or clause prohibiting prayer — there is, however, a law which prohibits government endorsement of religion (particularly one religion over all others). It's called the First Amendment. And when a government body like the Forsyth County board of commissioners engages in prayer — Christian prayer — to the exclusion of all other forms of worship from other religions, that clearly violates the Constitution.