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Forsyth prayer appeal decision expected soon from Supreme Court

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether it will hear Forsyth County’s appeal of a lawsuit over prayer at county meetings.

The county filed its appeal after the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled against the county in July.

The case involves a couple who sued in 2007 after hearing a prayer with Jesus’ name before a meeting. The county said it invites anyone of faith to recite prayer, but the couple said commissioners showed a preference for Christian prayers.

The court only hears about 100 of the more than 10,000 appeals it receives every year. However, this appeal has support from officials in several states.

Attorneys general in 13 different states filed a brief supporting Forsyth County’s case, and several lawmakers at both the state and federal levels also want the appeal to be heard.

The Alliance Defense Fund is representing the county for free in this case. ADF Attorney Mike Johnson said the organization believes it has a good chance to get the appeal heard.

“What we have here is a split between the various appellate circuits. It’s a direct split between the 4th circuit and the 11th circuit. When something like that happens, it makes it right for the Supreme Court to take a look at it,” Johnson said.

Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall said he is not as upset about not having prayer before public meetings as he is about the anger surrounding the case.

“You can’t believe the amount of hate that’s directed at you, a fellow Christian. It’s kind of hard to understand,” Marshall said.

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are backing the couple in the case.