Jesus' name ruled 'unconstitutional'

Judge says prayers to Christ 'do violence to America's

pluralistic, inclusive values'

By Drew Zahn Posted: October 28, 2011

A board of county commissioners in North Carolina is asking the Supreme Court for help: Its members don't believe they should have to forbid volunteers from mentioning the name of Jesus in prayers offered before their meetings.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are standing by their victory in a U.S. circuit court decision that states even "a solitary reference to Jesus Christ" in invocations before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners' meetings could do "violence to the pluralistic and inclusive values that are a defining feature of American public life."

Furthermore, wrote Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals majority opinion, legislative invocations offered in Jesus' name are inherently "sectarian" and thus should be censored lest they make some attendees feel "uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwilling to participate in … public affairs."

What is Christianity's role in the nation? Find out in "Christianity and the American Commonwealth"

But the board disagrees, and with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund is asking the Supreme Court to trump Wilkinson's ruling.

"America's founders opened public meetings with prayer; this county simply wants to allow its citizens to do the same," said ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman in a statement. "We trust the U.S. Supreme Court will want to review this case because of the long history in America of offering prayers before public meetings. Public officials shouldn't be coerced into censoring the prayers of those invited to offer them just because secularist groups don't like people praying according to their own conscience."

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