Prayer Debate Headed for U.S. Supreme Court

11:48 PM, Nov 4, 2013   |    comments
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WINSTON-SALEM -- What do you think about local governments opening up meetings with prayer? Part of the idea is headed to the US Supreme Court. Ironically, the nation's highest court asks for God's protection before each public session.

It comes down to which religion is giving the prayer and the words they use in the prayer. The law states you can't have legislative prayers that favor one set of religious beliefs over another.
So that means you can't use words like Jesus or Christ or Savior.

Both sides say the issue is about freedom. Forsyth County Commissioner Mark Baker said  it's freedom of speech. "This isn't to push a particular religion or belief system. This is really about freedom."

And freedom to feel welcome, said North Carolina ACLU legal director Chris Brook. "So many folks that we've represented in these cases feel like they're being excluded and their opinions are not going to be taken as seriously by elected officials who have different religious beliefs."

Boards in both Forsyth and Rowan Counties have dealt with nearly identical issues when the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the way they prayed. Now, a similar case is headed for the Supreme Court, and both sides are still holding onto their beliefs.

"When it comes my turn as commissioner to pray, I ought to have the freedom to pray however I want to, and in my prayer, however I want to," said Baker.

"When you're a governmental official, you have a different set of responsibilities and your responsibilities include making sure everyone in the community feels welcome and included," said Brook.

"I don't think that just because I'm an elected official that I walk into the chamber and I drop my rights as a citizen," responded Baker. "I'm still an American citizen."

This is the first time in 30 years that the Supreme Court will hear a legislative prayer case. And since none of the current justices were on the court then, it's hard to say where they stand on the issue.

It could be several months before the court makes a decision on the case.

WFMY News 2

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