Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cert. Denied By Supreme Court In 2 Prayer Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied certiorari in two cases raising the issue of when public bodies may open their sessions with prayer. (Order List).  The first of the cases in which it denied review is Forsyth County, North Carolina v. Joyner, (Docket No. 11-546, cert. denied 1/17/2012). In the case, the 4th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, held that  the prayer policy of a county commission violated the Establishment Clause even though the policy was neutral on its face. All congregations in the community were invited to send a religious leader to lead an invocation at one of the commission meetings. As implemented, however, 80% of the prayers referenced Jesus and no non-Christian religious leader ever offered the invocation. (See prior posting.) [corrected]

The second case in which the court denied review is Indian River School District v. Doe, (Docket No. 11-569, cert. denied 1/17/2012). There the 3rd Circuit found a school board's prayer policy to be unconstitutional, holding that the test for whether prayers opening school board meetings violate the Establishment Clause is the test used for prayer at school events, not the test for when invocations are permitted in legislative bodies. (See prior posting.) [Thanks to Rob Luther for the lead.]