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Raleigh Won't Change Public Prayer Policy, Despite ACLU Request

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Raleigh City Council committee decided Tuesday that it would not amend its prayer policy, as requested earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

In a letter dated April 10, the state ACLU complained to Raleigh Assistant Deputy Clerk Ralph Puccini about the use of religious language during City Council meetings.

The ACLU objected to a minister's opening prayer, in which he said "in Christ's name we pray," saying it violated the United States Constitution.

"If official government meetings are opened with prayers that favor one particular sect, then that is violating the establishment clause because that is not neutral," said Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger.

Rudinger said the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled it is constitutional for local governments to begin meetings with prayer-- just not prayer of a specific higher power.

Members of the committee, however, said they think their current policy on prayer is fair and that are prepared to deal with litigation, if necessary.

The ACLU sent similar letters to other local governments, including Clayton and Pittsboro, that it believes are also violating the Constitution.

Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller said city leaders there would update its policy, but that he was unhappy with how he was informed.

"I was surprised to get the letter," Voller said. "Look, we're wanting to comply, but we don't appreciate (the ACLU) comng in here and saying, 'You're going to do this."

Chatham County leaders, who also received notice, plan to have prayers before the official government meetings begin, and in Clayton, local leaders said they are updating their policy so that it aligns with the ACLU's recommendation.


Dan Bowens, Reporter
Tom Normanly, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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