Emergency meeting to be held after ACLU files lawsuit over praye - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Emergency meeting planned after ACLU files lawsuit over prayer

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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) -

County commissioners in Rowan County are holding an emergency meeting after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit for opening meetings with prayer in the name of Jesus.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. on Monday to discuss the lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of three Rowan County citizens who say the sectarian prayer discriminates against them.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina last Tuesday, details how more than 97 percent of board meetings since 2007 have been opened with prayers specific to one religion, Christianity. 

"In that instance (Forsyth County) about 4 out of every 5 prayers favored one set of religious beliefs over others," according to ACLU North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook. "In this case (Rowan County) more than 97% of prayers, 139 out of 143 favor one set of religious beliefs over others."

The ACLU argues in the lawsuit that the practice of Christian prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Establishment Clause says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Fourteenth Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to state and local governments and includes the equal protection under the law clause.

"This is not a hostile thing that we're doing," said Nan Lund, one of the three named in the suit. "We're trying to make it so that the whole community feels more welcomed and is more willing to participate in county government which I think is really important."

Commissioners who responded to WBTV said that they were unable to comment on the pending litigation, but Commissioner Craig Pierce did respond in an email.

"I will remain true to my convictions as an individual and my right as a citizen of the United States to express my opinion and beliefs," he said.

Pierce is scheduled to pray prior to the regular Monday evening meeting set for 6 pm.

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