Sep 15, 2011

It had been the longstanding practice of the Fredericksburg City Council to have its members open its meetings with a brief, nonsectarian prayer. When incoming member Hashmel Turner joined the Council, however, he sought to deliver a prayer in the name of "Jesus Christ." In November 2005, the Council voted to require that the prayers be nonsectarian, and Turner filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the policy violated his First Amendment and equal-protection rights. On May 31, 2006, AU joined with the ACLU in an amicus brief in support of the City’s motion for summary judgment. The brief argued that the presentation of sectarian prayers would violate the Establishment Clause. On August 14, 2006, the district court issued a ruling against Turner, who then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. On July 23, 2008, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, holding that the Council’s prayer policy does not violate Turner’s free-speech and free-exercise rights, and that the requirement that the prayers be nonsectarian does not violate the Establishment Clause. On October 24, 2008, Turner filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 12, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari, thus concluding the case.