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Judge Orders Halt To Prayers At Rowan Meetings

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File photo of a Bible. (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

File photo of a Bible. (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages)

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A federal court judge issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ordering the Rowan County commissioners to halt their practice of opening government meetings with a prayer specific to one religion.

The ruling was issued in U.S. Middle District Court in Greensboro by Judge James A. Beaty Jr.

“We are very pleased that the court reaffirmed one of the most basic principles of religious liberty – that all members of the community should be treated and welcomed equally by their government, regardless of their personal religious beliefs,” said Chris Brook, legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, who is representing the plaintiffs.

“Opening government meetings with prayers that are specific to only one religion not only alienates people of different beliefs but also clearly violates the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty,” Brook said in a statement issued after the judge’s decision.

Rowan Commission Chairman Jim Sides had no comment on the ruling, saying he and his fellow commissioners are waiting to confer with their attorneys,

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Rowan County residents demanding that the board of commissioners stop its practice of opening government meetings with prayers that were specific to one religion.

(Related Article: Lawmakers In North Carolina Introduce Bill To Adopt An Official State Religion)

The organization accused the board of violating the First Amendment provision ordaining the separation of church and state by routinely praying to Jesus Christ to start its meetings.

In March, the commissioners opened their meeting with a prayer just one week after the ACLU filed its lawsuit.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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