Govt's Right to Prayer Before Meeting

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Opening a legislative session with prayer is a tradition in West Virginia – one that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey intends to keep.

Prayer dates back to the founding of the Mountain State and Morrisey believes this free expression of faith should continue.

He joins attorney generals in 22 other states who filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's ruling that praying before legislative meetings violates the First Amendment.

“We're not out to say a prayer at the beginning of session to try to proselytize or expand or promote religion or to criticize one religion over another religion or do anything like that,” says John Ellem, R-Wood County. “This is something that we've established as our own internal policy.”

When it comes to separation of power, Ellem says he wants to see the court respect what they do and decide to do as a legislative body governing their own conduct.

It's for the benefit and participation of the members.

“I'm glad that our State Attorney General joined in by filing a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ellem says. “What has happened is the U.S. Supreme Court has in the past upheld the constitutionality of legislative prayers.”

Ellem says Circuit Courts of Appeals blurred some Supreme Court holdings through only a handful of decisions.

He says this is a chance for the court to clarify what they've done for years is appropriate and set a clear rule legislators can follow throughout the country to continue opening prayer.

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