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Federal appeals court to hear dispute over Pittsylvania County board meeting invocations

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RICHMOND, Virginia — A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments over the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors' practice of opening meetings with a prayer.

The county is appealing a judge's ruling last year barring the board from opening meetings with prayers associated with a specific religion. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday in Richmond.

Pittsylvania resident Barbara Hudson filed the lawsuit in 2011, claiming the Christian invocations violate the Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of a religion.

According to court records, the board has a 200-year tradition of allowing members to open meetings with prayers that sometimes mention Jesus Christ. The county argues that the Supreme Court has upheld such traditions as long as prayer isn't used to proselytize or to disparage any faith.

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