(Breitbart) RICHMOND, VA — The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a 10-5 decision on Friday ruling that Rowan County, N.C., county commissioners cannot begin official sessions with prayer, the First Liberty Institute announced following the decision.
First Liberty represents the county and expressed disappointment that the court ignored precedent in the Supreme Court’s Town of Greece v. Galloway decision that deemed an opening prayer for legislative bodies acceptable under the Constitution.
“While we are disappointed in the Fourth Circuit’s decision to ban invocations before legislative meetings contrary to Supreme Court precedent, we are encouraged that the split in the vote on the Fourth Circuit demonstrates the need for the Supreme Court review on this issue,” Mike Berry, deputy general counsel for First Liberty, said.
First Liberty is also representing Jackson County, Michigan in a similar case that is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Writing in dissent, Circuit Judge G. Steven Agee pointed out that opening prayer for legislative bodies holds across the country, from the federal to local governments.
“Lawmaker-led prayer finds contemporary validation in the federal government as well,” Agee wrote. “Both houses of Congress allow members to deliver an opening invocation. The congressional record is replete with examples of legislators commencing legislative business with a prayer…”
But the majority came to another conclusion, one that, if taken up by the high court, Rowan County’s prayer practice would likely be upheld, legal analysts say.
“We conclude that the Constitution does not allow what happened in Rowan County,” J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for the majority. “The prayer practice served to identify the government with Christianity and risked conveying to citizens of minority faiths a message of exclusion…