S.C. Prayer Plaintiff Faces Wrath Of Community Over Lawsuit

A South Carolina woman who filed a successful lawsuit challenging government-sponsored\n prayers in the town of Great Falls has become a target for harassment and intimidation.

Darla Kaye Wynne, a Wiccan, filed suit challenging the Great Falls Town Council’s\n practice of opening its sessions with Christian prayer. In July, the 4th U.S.\n Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, holding that town officials may\n continue offering invocations but may not consistently employ Christian prayer.

Some people in town have not reacted well to the controversy. In August,\n someone broke into Wynne’s home and beheaded her pet parrot. Next to\n the dead bird was a note reading, “You’re next!”

Wynne says she won’t be driven out of town.

“I’ve been devastated by all of this here,” she told the\n Columbia State. “People have asked me why I don’t just\n leave, but if I left, it would be like the people who did this won. You couldn’t\n pry me out of this town now.”

Wynne, who has several pets, said some of her cats have been killed and her\n Yorkshire terriers were beaten.

Police officials in town say they are investigating the incidents. Town officials\n also condemned the harassment.

Wynne, who moved to Great Falls from North Carolina in 1998 after a divorce,\n said she first attended a council meeting to inquire about getting drug dealers\n off her block. She says she ended up being quizzed about the bumper stickers\n on her truck that promote Wicca, a pre-Christian nature-based religion.

Raised a Southern Baptist in Louis­iana, Wynne converted to Wicca in\n her 20s and is now a high priestess. Wynne said she continued attending council\n meetings but grew uncomfortable with the Christian prayers. She suggested that\n the council shift to a non-sectarian prayer or that members of other faiths\n be allowed to give invocations, but the council refused. In 2001, she filed\n a lawsuit and won backing from the American Civil Liberties Union. (Americans\n United filed a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf.)

Great Falls officials have asked the entire 4th Circuit, which consists of\n 14 judges, to rehear the case. In the meantime, the council is offering invocations\n that invoke God but not Jesus.

The council has also approved a new religious diversity policy. It states\n in part, “The town of Great Falls believes in the freedom of religion\n and welcomes into its community persons of any and all religious faiths and\n persons who hold no religious beliefs.”