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Americans United fought to keep exclusive prayers – ones that evoke particular religions – out of your town meetings, and the Supreme Court told us “NO.” ---  Now Religious Right zealots are hijacking the Town of Greece v. Galloway decision, claiming they have a green light to promote the majority’s prayers in local government meetings across the nation.

Now it’s AU’s turn to say “NO!”

The Greece ruling was a bad decision, but the Court did make it clear that the First Amendment imposes limits on local governments that open their meetings with ceremonial prayers.  Towns cannot discriminate on the basis of religion; town leaders cannot lead others in prayers or integrate worship into the legislative process; and invocations cannot proselytize or denigrate other belief systems.

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Atheists Excluded

As far as the Brevard County Board of Commissioners is concerned, non-theists are more than welcome to address their local officials during meetings – as long as they know their place.

“If other groups want to talk, we’re all for freedom of speech, but we also have a public comments section in our meetings, and we feel like that’s an appropriate place for those discussions to be had,” Tom Walker, Brevard County’s communications director, said July 2.

Va. County Loses Sectarian Prayer Fight

The Pittsylvania County, Va., Board of Supervisors is weighing its options after a federal court ruled it must discontinue its prayer practice. According to CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV, supervisors traditionally delivered prayers themselves at public meetings. Because the supervisors each identify as Christian, the prayers subsequently contained exclusively Christian content.

A federal court ruled that this practice violates the First Amendment. The ruling makes it clear that the board may hold prayers, but it must implement a more inclusive policy.

Americans United Warns Officials At N.C. County Not To Ban Non-Christian Prayers From Government Meetings

Lincoln County Commission Must Make An Effort To Include All Viewpoints In Official Invocations, Church-State Watchdog Asserts

The Lincoln County Commission in North Carolina may not prohibit non-Christians from offering opening prayers at its meetings, Americans United for Separation of Church and State says.

In a letter sent today, Americans United makes it clear to the commissioners that the First Amendment does not permit government to favor one religion over others.

Muslim Leader’s Prayer Invitation Sparks Fuss In North Dakota

A Muslim cleric scheduled to deliver a prayer before the North Dakota House of Representatives had his invitation rescinded after some lawmakers expressed objections to a non-Christian giving a prayer on Ash Wednesday.

The invocation was to be given Feb. 18 by Dr. Nadim Koleilat, a urology transplant surgeon and president of the Bismarck Muslim Community Center. He was allowed to address the North Dakota Senate that day instead.

The Grand Forks Herald reported that Koleilat’s message to the Senate was broadly non-sectarian and did not employ terms specific to Islam.

AU Chapter Leader Offers Secular Invocation Before El Paso Council

An Americans United chapter leader recently gave the first-ever secular invocation before a meeting of the El Paso, Texas, City Council.

David Marcus, president of AU’s El Paso Chapter, offered a message of inclusion before the board’s Dec. 2 meeting.

“We come together today in a spirit of cooperation and compromise,” he said, noting that the border city of more than 670,000 people is made up of residents with different beliefs and that each individual’s feelings are deeply important.

Unanswered Prayers

Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its verdict in Town of Greece v. Galloway, legalizing legislative prayer before meetings of local government, one county supervisor in Virginia had an inspiration: Henceforth, prayer should be all Christian, all the time.

“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” Roanoke County Supervisor Al Bedrosian told the Roanoke Times. “If we allow everything…where do you draw the line?”

Americans United Announces Response To Misguided Supreme Court Ruling On Legislative Prayer

Church-State Watchdog Group Launching ‘Operation Inclusion,’ A Multi-Pronged Strategy To Protect The Rights Of All Americans

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today announced that it is implementing a coordinated response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision approving official prayers before meetings of local government bodies.

The plan, dubbed “Operation Inclusion,” is necessary to ensure that the rights of all Americans are protected and to respond to misleading claims by Religious Right groups, Americans United says.