The Latest: Court reviews practice of prayers at meetings 

The Latest: Court reviews practice of prayers at meetings 

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Latest on a case in front of a federal appeals court examining a North Carolina county commission's practice of opening meetings with Christian prayer (all times local):

1 p.m.

A federal appeals court is wrestling with whether it matters if a prayer opening a government meeting is led by local clergy or an elected official.

The full 15-judge bench of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in a case challenging a North Carolina county commission's practice of opening meetings with Christian prayers.

Allyson Ho is an attorney for Rowan County. She told the judges that the only difference between this case and the legislative prayer practice previously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court is that the commissioners are the ones reciting them.

The Supreme Court has ruled in 2014 that it's appropriate for local clergy to deliver predominantly Christian prayers and town meetings in New York.

Chris Brook is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. Brook says the Rowan County practice goes beyond what the Supreme Court has deemed constitutional.

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6:15 a.m.

A federal appeals court is taking another look at a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina county commission's practice of opening meetings with Christian prayer.

The full 15-judge bench of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Rowan County prayer case on Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the commission on behalf of three people who said the commission's practice of starting meetings with prayers that almost always referred to Christianity was coercive and discriminatory.

A divided three-judge panel of the Richmond, Virginia-based court ruled last year that the practice was constitutional as long as commissioners don't pressure others to participate.

That ruling reversed a lower court decision siding with the ACLU. That ruling is on hold until the full court weighs in.

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