Recently, The Family Foundation, in conjunction with several other state family policy councils, filed an amicus brief in the religious liberty case of Joyner v. Forsyth County. The details of this case date back to March of 2007 when the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed suit against North Carolina’s Forsyth County Board of Supervisors, in which it stated:
[the Board] does not have a policy which discourages or prohibits those whom [the Board] has invited to deliver prayers from including references to Jesus Christ, or any other sectarian deity, as part of their prayers.
This is yet another blatant, undisguised attack on the free exercise of Christian faith. But our friends at the Alliance Defense Fund are defending the Board — and our liberty — in this case.
Joyner v. Forsyth County was characterized by legal gymnastics for nearly three years until January when the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina sided with the ACLU. Shortly after, the Board appealed the ruling and the case now in headed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond. Since Virginia also resides in the Fourth Circuit, the decision made in this case could profoundly impact religious liberty in Virginia. Therefore, The Family Foundation felt it imperative to stand up for our freedoms by jointly filing an amicus brief.
An invocation according to the dictates of the giver’s conscience is not an establishment of religion. If it was, you’d have to argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were violating the Constitution in the prayers and invocations that they themselves offered.
(Mike testified in committee during the 2009 General Assembly, at our request, on behalf of a bill to allow state police chaplains the religious liberty rights to pray in Jesus’ name.)
Several Virginia legislators also signed on to an amicus brief in support of religious liberty in Joyner v. Forsyth County, including Delegtes Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg), Bill Carrico (R-5, Galax), Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) and Brenda Pogge (R-96, Yorktown); and Senators Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27, Winchester). Unfortunately, due to uncontrollable circumstances, the five-hour window for legislators to sign on precluded many others who expressed a desire to join the brief. Those who could not, given the short deadline, include Delegates Tag Greason (R-32, Potomac Falls) and Ed Scott (R-30, Culpeper), and Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest). (There may be an opportunity for to sign on to an amended brief, but if your legislators are not listed here, it may simply be because they weren’t able to respond in the short window.