Residents of Forsyth County, N.C., can now pray to Jesus by name at public meetings after a federal court order was lifted Thursday.
Forsyth has been caught up in this battle for years with little hope for supporters of religious expression. A recent Supreme Court decision, however, changed the game and paved the way for lifting the ban. This could be good news for proponents of prayer in similar cases across the country.
In March 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the Forsyth County Commission on behalf of three individuals. They demanded the county discourage or prohibit invited speakers specifically referring to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, while praying at public meetings.
And for a while that was the rule.
In 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit upheld the ban. In 2012, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, but after a similar case earlier this year precedent changed.
After winning the landmark public prayer Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway earlier this year, the Alliance Defending Freedom requested the court’s order against Forsyth’s prayer policy be lifted.
The court agreed. The policy had previously forbid mentioning a sectarian deity in public prayers, but now that restriction is gone.
“The Supreme Court affirmed the freedom of Americans to pray according to their consciences before public meetings,” ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey said in a press release. “For that reason, the district court was right to lift its previous order against Forsyth County’s prayer policy, which is clearly constitutional.”
Harvey told The Daily Caller News Foundation that four federal cases challenging legislative prayer are currently active in Hamilton County in Tennessee, Carroll County in Maryland, Rowan County in North Carolina and Pittsylvania County in Virginia.
“Even with the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the freedom of Americans to pray according to their consciences before public meetings, battles are still being fought across the country,” Harvey told TheDCNF. “Like our work in the Town of Greece and Forsyth County, we will continue to defend this constitutional right for Americans.”