What Constitution? Anti-Muslim Rep. in North Carolina Pushes for Christian Prayer in Government Meetings

Should local officials be able to start their meetings with prayers that endorse a particular faith? North Carolina State Rep. Michele Presnell thinks so, with one tiny caveat: the faith endorsed must be her own. When asked by one of her constituents whether she would be comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a public meeting, Presnell responded, "No, I do not condone terrorism."

Despite the disturbing anti-Islamic bigotry in her statement, this illustrates the problem with these religion-specific prayers: someone is always going to be excluded or offended by them, and they can't possibly account for everyone's beliefs.

No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by his or her own local government, but for the past six years the Rowan County Board of Commissioners have sidelined and excluded Americans of other faiths through the systematic use of prayers specific to only one religion – Christianity.

As if that weren't enough of a reason to stop or change the prayers, the practice is blatantly unconstitutional. The government generally can't sponsor prayer at all, but the Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception to this rule that allows legislative bodies, like a county board, to open meetings with invocations, so long as they do not promote one faith over others.

That's why the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit challenging Rowan County's practice of opening its Board of Commissioners meetings with sectarian prayers. The facts are clear: more than 97 percent of board meetings since 2007 have been opened with explicitly Christian prayers delivered by the commissioners themselves. The prayers regularly call on Jesus and even incorporate proselytizing messages like "there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ." The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of three local citizens who do not share the religious beliefs of the county commissioners and felt excluded by the prayers when attending meetings.

This lawsuit should have served as a wake-up call, but instead local and state officials came up with a novel way to work around this legal hurdle: Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford filed House Resolution 494, which asserts that North Carolina simply need not follow the U.S. Constitution or federal court rulings that prohibit the establishment of a state religion.

Anyone who has taken a high-school civics class knows, of course, that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and states cannot just declare that it does not apply to them. But perhaps Warren, Ford, and the bill's other sponsors (like Presnell) missed class that day. Other legislators, however, realized how ridiculous the resolution was, and it is now clear that it will never come to a vote.

So North Carolina won't be establishing an official state religion – that's the good news. The bad news is that this type of exclusionary prayer practice is still alive and well in 2013, and elected officials like Presnell are still spouting ignorant bigotry. We at the ACLU are hopeful that one day lawsuits won't be needed to convince local governments to treat all their citizens with the same amount of respect, regardless of their faith.

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Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) ALWAYS opens his town halls with a CHRISTIAN prayer. He doesn't CARE what anybody thinks


My pastor has no problem with "no prayer in schools" although not for any reason nonChristian people would find reputable.
He said "how do you know which God they're praying to?" It doesn't bother him that his kids can't pray at school. They do at home and church so it doesn't bother him, but he's laid back about it.

I think people who try to cram it down everyone's throat aren't real Christians anyway, b/c they're not acting "Christ-like" which is where the word Christian came from in the first place. All they are is a person who likes conTROL, NOT conversation.
And I don't seem to know a politician alive who DOESN'T like control and I don't care which party they're from. People from both parties act that way and Democrats, who think they're nothing BUT tolerant, become as excessively intolerant as the ones they've accused of the same thing, just b/c you don't act and think like them in every way, shape and form.

I've experienced it more than 20 times in one year on that many differing issues. I think Stephen King was right when he said BOTH parties are doing it and not just the one who does it a little more than the other.
Disagree with the other side on something, and see how fast they throw you out with the bath water.
I dislike Hillary Clinton, and that whole family in general, but say something about how I just don't care for them and suddenly I'm some kind of monster.
Then I got the same treatment for positively despising this new crap with Congress. Even John McCain thought it was stupid, but before he said anything about it, I said something on Boehner's FB page about it.
And got even worse treatment from his supporters than I got from Hillary supporters.

All of it is ridiculous, just like it's ridiculous to keep putting issues in politics into religious categories and casting them out for no other reason than that they violate ONE religion. I'm really sick and tired of everyone using that as an excuse to get something to go their way: And almost all of them are also WOMEN'S issues.


Hopefully, this comment will no be marked as spam.. Like my other comment was. It's ridiculous America will stand up for everyone but religious freedom or lack there of except for christians. He said Jesus, I'm offended!! Lets sue!!! How childish! Grow up ppl!!! Oh your offended? Get over it! I don't care who prayers to what!! Unless you're MADE to pray or participate in religious activities, you have no right now sue! Suing a man for say Jesus Christ violates his religious freedom and his right to the first amendment!


You're actually violating the Christians religious freedom and right to the first amendment! But Christians are the bigotry ones?? ..hmm..

from Richard, V...

I think it would make more sense if we could learn something about their religion (Muslims) so we would know why some of them (M. Atta, Osama bin Laden and friends) called on Allah just before they died on September 11, 2001, and seemed to be asking for his blessing for doing what they did.
For that matter, I think it would make the same amount of sense to learn the differences between someone who's a moderate as opposed to extremist Christian. Pat Robertson is an extremist.
If nobody ever makes a distinction between fanatics and moderate religious people, there's no way you can expect people of differing faiths are going understand the differences - or at least be able to recognize they exist.
I've never been all that religious, but when I went to Vietnam I discovered there were more intense incidents in this world than the practice, or not, of your religion.
In a firefight nobody cares what your religion is, their main concern is avoiding bullets and pineapple shrapnel, and they don't care what which political party you belong to.
My question is why does it have to get that intense before people care about other people? My desire is to do everything in my power to stop it from getting that intense.
Because believe me when I say: It's not worth the experience.
I mean to say I'd rather come to the realization on my own, not after watching a friend step on a landmine and then being exposed to sudden enemy fire from everywhere in the vicinity.

Right wing and ...

You guys have no right to ever call anyone or anything childish again!
You support this pig slop of suing the president for invoking "imperial" orders, even while you don't give a tinman's DAMN that Bush Junior, Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Mr. Bybee and the rest of the PSYCHOpaths who tortured people and used my dead husband's nam e to justify their sick-bastard behavior are running around the world FREE as a goddam jay bird.
So you're going to lie and say an executive order is MORE disgustingly "illegal" than all the crap they did with torture? Well screw you if that's what you're going to say because you're lying through your teeth AND you know it.
And you've never been a Christian in your heart a day in your life.

I voted for Bush Junior and I STILL want him thrown in jail for what he did, but is anybody running out to round up the Manson gang of torturers? NO. Because they don't care.
So shut up with your whining about anything until after you get disgusted enough with Bush, Cheney and goons to at LEAST throw their ass in jail. Or god forbid SUE them for it.
Dimwits, the whole lot of them are dingalings being more upset with someone wanting people to have health care than people who are responsible for more than a dozen deaths related to torture.

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