Feb 26, 2016

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners opens its public meetings with an invocation given by one of the Commissioners. Ninety-seven percent of these invocations are explicitly Christian, and Commissioners direct the audience to participate in the prayers. The Commissioners have made statements suggesting that the County views non-Christian beliefs with disfavor, and they have created an atmosphere that led to the harassment of religious minorities at Board meetings.

Long-time residents of Rowan County, who are non-Christian and feel coerced to participate in the Board’s prayers, filed suit, arguing that the County’s prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause. The district court found in favor of the plaintiffs, and the County appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In October 2015, we filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that Rowan County’s prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause because it discriminates against religious minorities, coerces citizens into unwanted religious exercise, and advances a particular faith.

The Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in January 2016. The court has not yet ruled in this matter.