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-U.S. Circuit Court: Prayers ‘In Jesus Name’ are Unconstitutional

by Dr. D ~ December 12th, 2011

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...

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According to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, offering prayers in ‘Jesus name’ during legislative invocations are unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State took the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina to court over opening prayers given before commission meetings ending “in Jesus name.” 

Judge James Harvie Wilkinson III in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote the majority opinion that:

legislative invocations offered in Jesus’ name are inherently "sectarian" and thus should be censored lest they make some attendees feel "uncomfortable, unwelcome and unwilling to participate in … public affairs."

Also, even "a solitary reference to Jesus Christ" in invocations before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ meetings could do "violence to the pluralistic and inclusive values that are a defining feature of American public life."

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brett Harvey disagreed with the ruling:

"The decision is troubling on many fronts. It is out of step with many other federal courts that have considered the validity of public invocations, including the United States Supreme Court. It ignores the religious heritage and history of our nation. But more troubling is the impact of the court’s decision on prayer itself. … It requires the government to censor private prayers and engage in comparative theology."

"The Constitution prohibits the government from deciding which religious words are acceptable and which are not, even if the goal is to make people feel more comfortable."

The decision is going to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Response: One wonders what titles for God are acceptable after this ruling? Also, who decides what is acceptable? Can a mullah pray to Allah or is it just Jesus Christ that must be censored and eliminated?

Actually this case was decided on July 29th so hopefully the Supreme Court will soon take on this case and resolve it in a way that our freedom of religion is not compromised.

From this ruling it does seem to me that Christianity is the only religion that is actually being restricted and Christian prayers and the ‘name of Jesus’ seems to be the only target. Another case of discrimination against Christians in the name of pluralism and PC inclusiveness? Looks like it to me.            *Top

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3 Responses to -U.S. Circuit Court: Prayers ‘In Jesus Name’ are Unconstitutional

  1. Brian

    Dr. D – The issue involving prayer “in Jesus name” is directly linked to the rise in stature of Evangelical/Charismatic/Pentecostal Protestants in the US in the last 50 years or so.

    Institutional prayers (i.e. a prayer at the opening of a legislative body, the start of an sporting event etc) have long been a feature of the American cultural landscape. They were, however, traditionally delivered by various “mainstream” Protestant denominations, or by Catholics. Neither group is noted for a religious emphasis upon the concept that prayer absolutely must be “in Jesus name”. Not trying to be too cynical, but Catholics can pray to 4,000 + saints.

    In the last 50 years or so, however, E/C/P groups have risen greatly, not only in numbers, but also in wealth, geographic distribution across the country, and in social status, causing an increasing number of these institutional prayer events to be led by a E/C/P minister who will insist, as an article of religious belief, that all prayer must be made “in Jesus name”. At the same time, secular groups have been on the march (particularly in the last 20 years) attacking any public display of faith.

    The ruling by various courts that the name of Jesus is, thus, an attack on ONE particular segment of Christianity, and its right to practice its faith as mandated by its beliefs.


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