The ACLU of North Carolina and American Civil Liberties Union 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 coercive legislator-led prayers that alienate those who do not participate.

Taken as a whole, the prayer practice – consisting exclusively of prayers delivered by board members, who directed audience participation and signaled disfavor toward non-Christians – created a hostile environment for people of different beliefs.

As the Fourth Circuit aptly described in its en banc opinion, “[W]hen a seat of government begins to resemble a house of worship, the values of religious observance are put at risk, and the danger of religious division rises accordingly.”

Status: The Fourth Circuit en banc struck down the prayer practice as an Establishment Clause violation. Rowan County has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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