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Religious Liberty

The ACLU works to guarantee that all people are free to follow and practice their faith -- or no faith at all -- without government influence or interference and that the government remains completely neutral regarding matters of religion and belief. 

ACLU-NC Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger wrote an op-ed in the Dec. 13 edition of the Charlotte Observer tackling the challenging constitutional questions surrounding a recent controversy in which McDowell County school officials deleted the word "God" from a 6-year-old student's poem.

Read the entire op-ed here.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) sent a letter last week to John W. Smith, director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), expressing concern about a recent complaint from a man who reported that he was prohibited from wearing religious attire in a Lenoir County courtroom. According to the complaint, the man was ejected from the Lenoir County courthouse on March 22 when he refused to remove his kufi – a knitted skull cap commonly worn by Muslim men.

In the letter, the ACLU-NCLF explains that, if true, the incident violated the man’s constitutional right to freely exercise his religion, and the organization asks AOC to provide public records of all written policies related to protecting the First Amendment religious rights of litigants, witnesses, and observers in North Carolina courts.

“This individual was forced to choose between his right to access the courts and the practice of his religious beliefs,” Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU-NCLF, wrote in the letter.


ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Katy Parker authored a Feb. 22 op-ed in the Salisbury Post responding to several articles and statements about the ACLU urging the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to cease holding unconstitutional sectarian prayer at public meeting. "By continuing to hold government-sponsored sectarian prayer, the Commissioners are not only violating the law, but making Rowan County less welcoming to religious minorities and to the constitutional principle of religious freedom," Parker writes.

Read the full op-ed here.

ACLU-NC Responds to Reps. Tillis and Stam

Posted on in Religious Liberty

Katy Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement today in response to statements from House Speaker Thom Tillis and House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam regarding an ACLU-NCLF letter sent on Feb. 2 to Attorney General Roy Cooper:

"A crucial component of an individual’s freedom of religion and belief is for the government to remain neutral on matters of religion and not show a preference for one individual's views over another's. This fundamentally American concept is a bedrock of our democracy and was enshrined by our Founders into the Constitution's First Amendment. As private individuals, members of the General Assembly are free to pray on their own in whatever way they choose. But when a prayer is used in a government chamber to open the legislature representing North Carolinians of all faiths and beliefs, the law clearly states that the prayer cannot be specific to one religion, whether offered by a legislator or by an invited prayer-giver. This practice ensures that North Carolinians of all beliefs can participate in their government without feeling alienated or excluded."

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper outlining constitutional concerns about the ongoing use of sectarian prayers to open meetings of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). Several legislators and members of the community have contacted the ACLU-NCLF to express concern about the frequent practice of convening sessions of the NCGA with sectarian prayer.

The letter comes after the U.S. Supreme Court announced last month that it would not review a July ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of ACLU-NCLF clients who objected to the frequent use of sectarian prayer by the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. In that case, Joyner v. Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Court ruled that sectarian prayer in a government setting was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

“We recommend that you adopt a policy to ensure that the NCGA halts the practice of opening sessions and any meetings with sectarian invocations,” wrote Katy Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU-NCLF, in today’s letter to Attorney General Cooper. Citing case law, Parker points out in the letter that “the NCGA is still permitted to open its sessions with a prayer, so long as the prayer is nonsectarian.”