The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three Rowan County citizens, demanding that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners stop its unconstitutional practice of opening government meetings with prayers that are specific to one religion.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, details how more than 95 percent of board meetings since 2007 have opened with prayers specific to one religion, Christianity. The commissioners, who deliver the prayers themselves, routinely call on Jesus Christ and refer to other sectarian beliefs during invocations. Opening invocations have declared that "there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ," as well as given thanks for the "virgin birth," the "cross at Calvary," and "the resurrection."
A 2011 ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in another ACLU case, Joyner, et al. v. Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, made clear that if local boards decide to open meeting with invocations, the prayers may not indicate a preference for one faith. More than 20 local governments throughout North Carolina have already changed their opening invocations in order to comply with the law.
Status: A federal court issued a preliminary injunction in July 2013.