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Papers filed with US Supreme Court to appeal Rowan County prayer lawsuit ruling

Staff and wire report

WASHINGTON — Lawyers representing Rowan County in a lawsuit that challenged the county commissioners’ prayer practices filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday asking the justices to hear an appeal.

The county is pursing an appeal of a ruling that bars the commissioners from opening their meetings with Christian prayers.

Lawyers representing the Rowan County commissioners in the case filed the papers.

In July, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 10-5 against the county. The judges said that while prayer itself is not unconstitutional, the commissioners’ practice of leading the prayers themselves and inviting the audience to join, always in the Christian faith, violates the First Amendment by establishing Christianity as a preferred religion.

The Richmond court’s ruling is at odds with the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, which found in September that such prayers are constitutional in a case out of Michigan.

The Rowan commissioners voted 5-0 last month to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. They are being represented by the National Center for Life and Liberty free of charge but could be liable for the plaintiffs’ legal fees if the 4th Circuit opinion is upheld.

The North Carolina ACLU represents the plaintiffs, Rowan County residents Nan Lund, Robert Voelker and Liesa Montag-Siegel.

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