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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Religious Liberty
By Daniel Bullard-Bates, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief

Should local officials be able to start their meetings with prayers that endorse a particular faith? North Carolina State Rep. Michele Presnell thinks so, with one tiny caveat: the faith endorsed must be her own. When asked by one of her constituents whether she would be comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a public meeting, Presnell responded, "No, I do not condone terrorism."

Despite the disturbing anti-Islamic bigotry in her statement, this illustrates the problem with these religion-specific prayers: someone is always going to be excluded or offended by them, and they can't possibly account for everyone's beliefs.

No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by his or her own local government, but for the past six years the Rowan County Board of Commissioners have sidelined and excluded Americans of other faiths through the systematic use of prayers specific to only one religion – Christianity.

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SALISBURY, N.C. – The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) filed a federal lawsuit yesterday on behalf of three Rowan County citizens, demanding that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners stop its unconstitutional practice of opening government meetings with prayers that are specific to one religion.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, details how more than 97 percent of board meetings since 2007 have been opened with prayers specific to one religion, Christianity.

“I want my local government to be open and welcoming to people of all beliefs,” said Nan Lund, a Salisbury resident who is one of three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. “But when officials begin a public meeting with prayers that are specific to only one religious viewpoint, I feel unwelcome and excluded.”

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More than 200 people attended the ACLU-NC's 44th Annual Frank Porter Graham Awards at the William and Ida Friday Center in Chapel Hill on Saturday, February 16. The annual event, named after the former University of North Carolina president and U.S. senator, is an opportunity to recognize exemplary civil rights leaders throughout the state for their work on various civil liberties issues.

You can see photos of the event and read about each of our award recipients below:

Keynote speaker:
Jimmy Creech

Author and LGBT and human rights activist

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ACLU-NC Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger wrote an op-ed in the Dec. 13 edition of the Charlotte Observer tackling the challenging constitutional questions surrounding a recent controversy in which McDowell County school officials deleted the word "God" from a 6-year-old student's poem.

Read the entire op-ed here.