CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his 13-state coalition won in a federal appeals court as the right of government officials to pray at public meetings was recognized.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged Morrisey's arguments as reasons why legislative prayer is constitutional. Morrisey's brief showed that numerous states, counties and municipalities open meetings with lawmaker-led prayer nationwide.
“Legislative prayer is a proud tradition in West Virginia,” Morrisey said in a statement. “This free expression of faith has been a cornerstone for many leaders who seek guidance from above in helping our state endure its struggles and reach new heights.”
The case – Lund vs. Rowan County – focused upon a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with prayer offered by its commissioners.
Morrisey's office says the victory protects the continued practice of lawmaker-led prayer in West Virginia and reverses a lower court ruling, which if left intact would have impacted North Carolina and every state in the court’s jurisdiction including West Virginia.
The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief, filed in support of the North Carolina county, used data to illustrate the prevalence of lawmaker-led prayer. It argued many governing bodies could not afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.
Morrisey led the coalition with support from attorneys general in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.