WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners was wrong to allow opening prayers at its meetings that singled out praise for a specific deity, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in favor of two county residents.

The residents filed a lawsuit after the prayer before a December 2007 commissioners meeting thanked God for allowing the birth of his son to forgive us for our sins. The meeting closed by making the prayer in the name of Jesus.

The decision upholds a lower court ruling that required commissioners to stop their pre-meeting prayers.