A Victory for Secularism in North Carolina

August 1, 2011

In North Carolina, Forsythe County's Board of Commissioners has long been opening its meetings with religious prayers.  But that's about to stop.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 29th that this Board of Commissioners has been violating the constitutional separation of church and state.  Americans United for Separation of Church and State announce this ruling and you can read American United's statement here.

In this ruling, it was written that this Board's policy

"... resulted in sectarian invocations meeting after meeting that advanced Christianity and that made at least two citizens feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and unwilling to participate in the public affairs of Forsyth County.  To be sure, citizens in a robust democracy should expect to hear all manner of things that they do not like.  But the First Amendment teaches that religious faith stands on a different footing from other forms of speech and observance.  Because religious belief is so intimate and so central to our being, government advancement and effective endorsement of one faith carries a particular sting for citizens who hold devoutly to another.  This is precisely the opposite of what legislative invocations should bring about.  In other words, whatever the Board’s intentions, its policy, as implemented, has led to exactly the kind of divisiveness the Establishment Clause seeks rightly to avoid."

Well done, court.  Let's hope this ruling stands as a powerful precedent, ending sectarian prayer forever.