Court upholds ruling against council member's Jesus-specific prayers

Sandra Day O'Connor weighs in
In a decision hailed by supporters as a victory for the separation of church and state, a federal appeals court upheld a Fredericksburg, Virginia, policy that restricts praying “in Jesus’ name” at city council meetings.

City council member Hashmel Turner, who is a part-time Baptist minister, claimed that requiring all prayers to be nondenominational violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

With retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing the ruling, a three-judge panel for the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 23 upheld a lower court’s 2006 decision, saying that Turner’s prayers constituted “government speech” rather than protected private speech.


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