AG asks U.S. Supreme Court to protect prayer at public meetings

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 22, 2017

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and officials from 21 other states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the practice of lawmaker-led prayer at public meetings.

The coalition filed a brief Nov. 15 asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments and confirm the constitutionality of the practice. Such a decision would clear confusion among the lower courts and strike down a ruling that impacts West Virginia.

“West Virginia has an enduring tradition of legislative prayer,” Morrisey said. “The freedom of leaders to express their faith must be protected as they seek guidance in aiding our state through struggles and helping it reach new heights.”

The coalition argues lawmaker-led prayer is woven into the fabric of American society. It says the practice also is fully consistent with the Constitution and our nation’s long tradition of non-coercive expressions of faith in the public sector.

The brief further cites numerous examples nationwide of states, counties and municipalities that open meetings with a government official’s prayer. It argues many governing bodies cannot afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.

The case, Lund vs. Rowan County, focuses upon a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with prayer offered by its commissioners. The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief is filed in support of the North Carolina county.

Protecting the continued practice of lawmaker-led prayer impacts not only North Carolina, but also West Virginia and every state within the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' jurisdiction.

West Virginia filed the brief in support of free expression of faith along with Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, along with the Governor of Kentucky. 

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