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Federal Court Says Pittsylvania County Violated Citizen’s Religious Liberty with Meeting-Opening Sectarian Prayers;
Danville, VA – Federal District Court Judge Michael Urbanski today ruled that the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors violated the First Amendment rights of ACLU of Virginia client Barbara Hudson by opening meetings with prayers that favored one set of religious beliefs over others.
“This ruling sends a clear message to localities that government officials may not impose their own religious beliefs on the entire community by leading sectarian prayers at public meetings,” said ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg. “The Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled repeatedly that our right to religious liberty precludes the government from expressing favor for one set of beliefs over others. It is, indeed, unfortunate that, given the clarity of the law, Pittsylvania County officials would choose to waste time and tax payer dollars in an unnecessary lawsuit, rather than simply conform their behavior to well-settled law,” Glenberg added.
“Despite the clarity of the law, we continue to receive too many complaints that public officials in cities and counties across the Commonwealth are engaging in government-sponsored sectarian prayers at public meetings,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastañaga. “Local governments across the Commonwealth should take note of this decision and the thousands of tax payer dollars that will be spent paying our legal fees. Legislative bodies may open their meetings with prayers if those prayers do not refer to particular religious beliefs or prefer some beliefs over others. Such a policy can, however, be very difficult to implement legally in practice. That’s why we encourage localities that want to have an invocation to consider having a moment of silence. A moment of silence can still solemnize the meeting by providing a brief period of reflection, and lets everyone who is present, both believers and non-believers, use the moment as they choose,” advised Gastañaga.
The controversy in Pittsylvania began in August 2011, when Ms. Hudson notified the ACLU that the Board of Supervisors began each meeting with a Christian prayer, delivered by Board members on a rotating basis. The ACLU wrote a letter to the Board explaining that this practice violated the First Amendment under the clear precedents of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which state that government bodies must not engage in official sectarian prayers.
After the Board made clear that it would continue holding sectarian prayers, Ms. Hudson filed suit in federal court. In February 2012, Judge Urbanski denied the County’s motion to dismiss the case, and granted a preliminary injunction to Hudson, forbidding the Board of Supervisors “from invoking the name of a specific deity associated with any one specific faith or belief in prayers given at Board meetings” while the lawsuit was pending. Since the injunction was issued, the Board has been opening its meetings with silent prayer.
Judge Urbanski ordered the case to mediation in December 2012. Following failed mediation efforts, Judge Urbanski issued his ruling on March 27, 2013.
In its opinion, the court enjoined the Board of Supervisors “from repeatedly opening its meetings with prayers associated with any one religion, which practice has the unconstitutional ‘effect of affiliating the government with any one specific faith or belief.’”
The court also noted that the decision did not “indicate a hostility toward religion or toward prayer.” Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Urbanksi wrote: “The founders of our nation, possessing faith in the power of prayer . . . led the fight for adoption of our Constitution and also for our Bill of Rights with the very guarantees of religious freedom that forbid the sort of governmental activity which [the Board] has attempted here.”
Hudson was represented by Glenberg and by ACLU of Virginia cooperating attorney Frank M. Feibelman. The ACLU of Virginia will be seeking attorney’s fees and costs.
A copy of the District Court’s Memorandum Opinion can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-
content/uploads/2011/09/ 20130327PittsylvaniaDistCtOpin ion.pdf
belief/federal-court-says- pittsylvania-county-violated- citizens-religious-liberty- meeting Link to original story.
Our Notes: How long are we going to continue to allow insane judges and insane attorneys to ignore very simple words from the 1st amendment of our Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. All 3 go hand in hand. You take away freedom of religion you are also taking away freedom of speech and freedom of the press all at the same time. No exceptions. If Federal District Court Judge Michael Urbanski can not read the simple text of the 1st amendment to the Bill of Rights, maybe he needs to be given a very long vacation and taught to read.
Dictators need not hear bad cases. Would these people prefer opening board meetings with prayer from the satanic bible? This is a Christian Nation founded on Christian principles. If the prayer is non denominational, in Christian faith, then it makes no difference. Can the Christian Faith as the prefered faith of this nation be argued and won? Without question, YES! Are other faiths blacked out from prayer because of this? No. The argument is not sound from the ACLU nor from the judge.
It's time to fight back from the tyranny of stupidity and false arguments. By the way, laws in violation of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights are not laws and do not have to be followed. We recommend that Pittsylvania continue in it's practice ignoring anything the court has stated as the court itself is in violation of the Bill of Rights in our view. Barbara Hudson can move to Russia for freedom from religion if that is what she seeks.
Free downloads are available on this bible from either our SlideShare account or
http://www.putlocker.com/file/B02F50D1BF2267FB Get a copy from this link.
Choose the free user option and download your free copy. Send a copy to the judge, he needs some reading exercises while taking that needed vacation coming up.
The separation of church and state is so that one could not control the other, period. It did not preclude prayer from one denomination over another. It's like claiming that even though a Catholic priest said the opening prayer, the Catholic church now has complete control over the entire US Federal government. It's hogwash. If all board members at a Board of Supervisor's meeting proved to all be jewish and by consent of the public they were all voted in, then by consent, the jewish leaders at the board would have a fair argument to have jewish prayers open each meeting. Consent of the governed. One person does not make consent in totality, only in minority. Let Pittsylvania wrest the case of consent and not some Federal District Court Judge dunderhead.
It's government by the people, for the people and of the people by consent of the people. Not some dictatorship in some banana republic by the few for the few. Oh by the way, congress opens it's meetings with prayers, anyone want to attack them? I didn't think so.