The Rowan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to appeal a recent federal court ruling that said its commissioner-led Christian prayers before public meetings violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Salisbury Post reported that at a Monday meeting, the board heard from a parade of speakers from the public and, before the vote, each commissioner explained why it was important to appeal the decision.
“What really is at risk is our right to free speech,” commissioner Judy Klusman said, according to the Post. “If we don’t have that right, what will come next?”
On May 4, U.S. District Judge James Beaty in Winston-Salem ruled that the commissioners violated the First Amendment’s ban on government endorsement of a single religion when they effectively ruled out other faiths with their prayers – 97 percent of which were Christian between 2007 and 2013.
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The Rowan commissioners’ Monday vote means Beaty’s decision will be appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ACLU of North Carolina, which had filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Rowan County residents, said Monday that it was disappointed at the commissioners’ vote.
“Rowan County residents should be able to attend public meetings without being coerced into participating in a government-sponsored prayer or fearing that they may be discriminated against for having different beliefs that the commissioners,” Chris Brook, the group’s legal director, said in a statement.