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Re: Pittsylvania County, VA BOS sued over prayers this week!

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  • rlbaty50
    ... http://acluva.org/7928/aclu-sues-pittsylvania-county-over-sectarian-prayers-at-board-of-supervisors-meetings/ September 26, 2011 ACLU Sues Pittsylvania
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 30, 2011
      ----------------------Press Release-----------------------------


      September 26, 2011

      ACLU Sues Pittsylvania County Over Sectarian Prayers at Board of Supervisors Meetings

      Danville, VA – The ACLU of Virginia today filed suit on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff against the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, alleging that its practice of opening meetings with a Christian prayer violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

      The group also asked the court for a preliminary injunction to halt the prayers while the lawsuit proceeds.

      > "The courts have consistently held that the government
      > may never use its power to promote one set of religious
      > beliefs over others,"

      said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.

      > "For this reason formal prayers offered at legislative
      > meetings must be broad and inclusive, and must not refer
      > to a specific religion."

      The current controversy in Pittsylvania County began on August 16, when ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg wrote a letter to members of the Board of Supervisors asking them to cease opening their meetings with sectarian prayer.

      The letter pointed out that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly held that prayers used to open government meetings must not represent any one particular religious belief. Glenberg's letter pointed specifically to a July ruling in which the Fourth Circuit struck down as unconstitutional sectarian prayers at meetings of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina.

      Instead of complying with these rulings as requested by the ACLU, Pittsylvania Board members announced their determination to continue offering explicitly Christian prayers to open meetings.

      At its meeting the same day that the Board received the ACLU's letter, Board members offered five separate sectarian prayers.

      At a later meeting, the Board adopted a resolution stating that the prayers would no longer be on the official agenda and would take place before the opening gavel.

      But the ACLU's complaint notes that the invocation is still an official government prayer because the resolution provides that the purpose of the prayer is

      > "to solemnize proceedings of the
      > Board of Supervisors";

      the prayer is

      > "for the benefit of the Board of Supervisors";

      the prayer is to be delivered by members of the Board of Supervisors, on a rotating basis; and

      > "the Chairperson shall introduce
      > the invocational speaker."

      Willis added:

      > "In its most recent opinion, the Fourth Circuit
      > Court of Appeals wrote that `faith is as deeply
      > important as it is deeply personal, and the government
      > should not appear to suggest that some faiths have it
      > wrong and others got it right.' Members of the
      > Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors are free to engage
      > in Christian prayer at almost any time or place – and
      > the ACLU would be the first organization in line to
      > defend their right to do so – but not when they are
      > acting as government representatives at a government
      > meeting."

      The plaintiff in the case, referred to as "Jane Doe" in legal papers, is a Pittsylvania County citizen who regularly attends Board of Supervisors meetings.

      She is suing anonymously because she fears retaliation based on the anger and contempt the controversy has aroused in Pittsylvania County.

      Lawyers for Ms. Doe are ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia Dunn Fellow Thomas Okuda Fitzpatrick, and Cooperating ACLU Attorney Frank M. Feibelman of Richmond.

      The complaint can be found online at:

      http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20110926PittsylvaniaPrayerComplaint.pdf .

      The memorandum in support of motion for preliminary injunction can be found at:

      http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20110926PittsylvaniaPrayerPIMemorandum.pdf .

      Glenberg's August 16 letter can be found at

      http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Pittsylvania-BOS-Prayer-ltr.pdf .


      --- In Maury_and_Baty@yahoogroups.com,
      "rlbaty50" <rlbaty@...> wrote:
      > See Complaint at:
      > http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/20110926PittsylvaniaPrayerComplaint.pdf
      > This could be an issue that Shockley and
      > Killingsworth will have to deal with in
      > their Campbell County, VA and the BOS race.
      > Shockley was in the news recently over his
      > comments regarding prayers at BOS meetings.
      > Sincerely,
      > Robert Baty

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