Special to Inside The Pew
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a coalition of 22 states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the practice of lawmaker-led prayer at public meetings. The case, Lund vs. Rowan County, focuses upon a North Carolina county’s practice of opening its meeting with prayer offered by its commissioners. The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief supports the county.
The coalition filed a brief Nov. 16 asking the Supreme Court to hear arguments and reaffirm the constitutionality of the practice. Such a decision would clear confusion among the lower courts. The states argue that lawmaker-led prayer is woven into the fabric of American society. The practice also is fully consistent with the Constitution and our nation’s long tradition of non-coercive expressions of faith in the public sector.
“Lawmaker-led prayer has existed across the country for more than a century,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Opening legislative meetings in prayer has [sic] consistently involved lawmakers themselves exercising their own religious liberty.”
The brief further cites examples across the nation of states, counties and municipalities that open meetings with a government official’s prayer. It argues many governing bodies cannot afford to hire a full-time chaplain or recruit volunteer clergy.
West Virginia led the amicus brief in support of free expression of faith. States joining West Virginia and Texas were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin, along with the Governor of Kentucky.