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Rowan County commissioners appeal ruling in case involving Christian prayers before meetings


SALISBURY, North Carolina — Rowan County commissioners are appealing a federal court ruling which said their practice of opening meetings with Christian prayers violated the First Amendment.

Local media outlets report the Texas nonprofit Liberty Institute filed the 44-page brief on behalf of the commissioners on Monday. Commissioners voted last month to file an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeal cites a New York state case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that town boards can start meetings with sectarian prayer delivered by clergy and others of various faiths.

In May, U.S. District Judge James Beaty held that the commissioners violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which bans government endorsement of a single religion. Beaty also said the commissioners' actions fell outside of the New York decision.

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