On January 17, the Supreme Court denied a petition to review a lower court’s case, Joyner v. Forsyth County. Most of the accompanying paperwork is available here, on the Supreme Court’s blog. But the gist is this:
Forsyth County Board of Commissioners began its Dec. 17, 2007 meetings like so many others – with prayer, as issued from an invited religious leader in the community. This particular prayer was led by Reverend Robert Hutchens, a self-described “minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” according to pages 117-119 of the petition. The Reverend included references to the New Testament, to the Son, to the Cross of Calvary, to the Virgin Birth, and to the Bible, according to the petition, before closing with: “For we do make this prayer in Your Son Jesus’ name, Amen.”
In the audience were Janet Joyner and Constance Lynne Blackmon, awaiting a turn to speak on an agenda item. Their reaction to this prayer? From the petition:
Plaintiff Blackmon states that she felt coerced to stand for the prayer by the Board chairperson. ... She felt alienated as a county resident and less inclined to attend future meetings. ... Plaintiff Blackmon further states in her affidavit that she felt unwelcome as a non-Christian and “coerced by [her] government into endorsing a Christian prayer.”
Plaintiff Joyner testified that she was “shocked” at the prayer given by Reverend Hutchens and his thanking the Board for “having stood up for his right to pray to the Lord Jesus as he says the New Testament requires.” ... She felt compelled to bow her head during prayer. ... Plaintiff Joyner felt that the prayer was “worse than anything” she had ever heard at the meetings “in terms of its offensiveness.”... She states in her affidavit that she felt coerced “into endorsing a Christian prayer.”... Plaintiff Joyner decided not to speak on the agenda item she planned to speak on in part due to her fear of harming the 8d agenda item “because of this issue about the prayer."
So they sued. And in light of the Supreme Court’s denial to hear the case – they won.
Yet one more denial of the right to profess Christian faith in public. What’s interesting about this case is the Congressional Prayer Caucus sent an amicus brief, in support of the Forsyth Board of Commissioners.
“The amicus curiae brief [had asked] the Supreme Court to take up the case and overturn the Fourth Circuit’s decision, in hopes that the Court will bring the ruling into alignment with decisions of other federal courts and our nation’s historic legacy of permitting such prayer,” the CPC writes on its website. And why the Congressional Prayer Caucus’s involvement is so interesting is that the membership of this group is comprised of Republicans and Democrats – congressional representatives who daily argue their opposing views of policy and proposed law, sometimes in the most vehement of manner, yet somehow cast aside that political partisanship to come together on issues of higher importance and crucial concern to all. They pray for each other, for their families – imagine, Democrats praying for Republicans, Republicans praying for Democrats, in perhaps the most vitriolic of atmospheres in America.
And then there’s Ms. Joyner. Then there’s Ms. Blackmon. Then there’s the trending culture of America to remove all public displays and references of Christian faith, else threaten lawsuit, instead of adopting common sense courtesies. Would it have killed them to bow their heads in respect for one minute?