Religious Groups Oppose N.C. Council-Prayer Policy

Many religious groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs opposing sectarian invocations before meetings of the Forsyth County (N.C.) Board of Commissioners.

Americans United and the North Carolina ACLU have challenged the county’s sectarian bias, noting that the vast majority of prayers are Christian. A federal district court struck down the board’s practice in January, but the board, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, appealed the Joyner v. Forsyth County decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the sectarian prayers.

“This marriage of a local government and the Christian faith,” the BJC brief asserts, “is directly contrary to the fundamental principle of [church-state separation], the ‘belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion.’ This Court should not permit such a union to stand.”

Several minority religious groups also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to sectarian governmental preference. Signers included the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Hindu American Foundation, the Blue Mountain Lotus Society (a Buddhist group) and two Sikh groups (the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and the Sikh Council on Religion and Education).

The brief argues that sectarian prayer divides communities and discourages members of minority faiths from participating in the political process or practicing their religion publicly.