Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision against ceremonial prayers at government meetings.
City councils and quorum courts around the country often open meetings with prayer–a practice that predates the U.S. Constitution itself and has routinely been ruled constitutional.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed an amicus brief supporting public prayer as part of the defense against this lawsuit. Last week her office issued a statement, saying,
September 19, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today praised the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for rejecting a district court decision and upholding the constitutional right of lawmakers in deliberative bodies to open meetings with a ceremonial prayer. The district court concluded that lawmaker-led prayer was not protected under the Constitution.
“It is a time-honored practice, dating back to the founding of this nation for deliberative bodies, led by a lawmaker, to open a meeting with a prayer,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I know that this practice is no different in Arkansas, and this victory helps protect lawmaker-led prayer to open meetings in cities and counties across our State and across the country.”
Rutledge was part of a 13-state coalition, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, that filed an amicus brief in support of a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with a prayer offered by commissioners.
The attorneys general brief illustrated that numerous states, counties and municipalities open each meeting with a lawmaker-led prayer and if the lower court’s decision was allowed to stand, many of these governing bodies would be forced to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy to lead a prayer, which many can simply not afford.
In addition to West Virginia and Arkansas, the brief was signed by attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.