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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Stanley files motion to allow board to use Christian prayers
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Bill Stanley

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

As the attorney for the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, Bill Stanley has filed a motion to remove the injunction ordering the board to cease opening its meetings with Christian prayers.

The injunction was issued on March 26, 2013, by United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that Christian prayers before legislative meetings do not violate the Constitution and that prayers do not have to be stripped of specific religious references, Stanley filed the motion to remove the injunction.

"We have always believed and argued in this case that the long-standing tradition of opening each board meeting with a prayer offered by a board member did not compel the members of the public in attendance to engage in an impermissible religious observance, and did not constitute an unconstitutional establishment of religion by the Pittsylvania County government," Stanley said. "My clients and I feel vindicated by the Town of Greece Supreme Court ruling and believe that it renders that injunction null and void regarding the future conduct of the board."

"I commend my clients for standing up against federal government intrusion into the business of this local government entity, and for continuing to fight for what is right, fair and just under the First Amendment of the Constitution," he added. "This filing is yet another step in that fight, and we expect that in the very near future the District Court will correct itself, lift the permanent injunction, and permit prayer back into the meetings of the board of supervisors, as it was prior to the Hudson lawsuit."

The Supreme Court's decision also has relevance for the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, which acquiesced to a complaint from Dave Gresham of Hardy in April 2012 to stop using Jesus' name in opening prayers. Supervisors conceded somewhat, continuing the traditional opening prayer at each meeting with references to God but not Jesus.

The campaign against prayer by elected officials began locally in September 2011 when a lawsuit was filed against the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of Barbara Hudson, a Pittsylvania County resident who wanted the board to stop using the name of Jesus in its opening prayers.

In March 2013, a federal judge barred the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors from saying Christian prayers before its meetings.

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