Board votes to take ban on prayer to high court

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that barred it from starting meetings with prayer that praised a specific deity.

The board voted 6-1 Monday night to continue its case to the nation’s high court if conservative foundations continue to pay its legal bills, including attorney’s fees if the county loses.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 late last month in favor of two county residents. They sued after a December 2007 commissioners meeting opened with a prayer thanking God for allowing the birth of his son, to forgive them for their sins and closed by making the prayer in the name of Jesus.

One of the appeals court judges pointed out in his ruling that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given before meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 referred to “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Christ” or “Savior.”

The Christian focus was justified because religious leaders of other faiths have an open invitation to lead prayers, county commission Vice Chair Debra Conrad said Monday.


Man gives church $4,000 in winnings from lottery

Members of a metro Atlanta church say a congregation member has donated his three winning Georgia Lottery tickets, giving the church donations totaling more than $4,000.

Church staff members say they claimed the prize on behalf of the congregation Aug. 1.

The Rev. Richard Burdick of Unity North Atlanta Church in Cobb County said the money would go toward the church’s mortgage and monthly bills.

Officials have not released the man’s name, saying he wishes to remain anonymous.


County officials rezone property to allow mosque

Henrico County officials have rezoned property to allow construction of a mosque three years after they rejected the proposal.

Media outlets reported that the Henrico County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to rezone the 3.6-acre property.

A group of Muslim investors initially sought the rezoning in 2008. At that time, the board rejected the request.

Brookland District Supervisor Richard W. Glover said there are no compelling reasons to deny the rezoning. He cited a federal law that prohibits government from imposing burdensome zoning-law restrictions on religious exercise.


Judge: Atheists group has right to advertise on buses

Buses in central Arkansas will have to run ads that question God’s existence, despite worries that vandals might target the banners, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the United Coalition of Reason, a group of atheists, agnostics and others who question the existence of God. The coalition wanted to run ads saying, “Are you good without God? Millions are.”

The coalition sued the Central Arkansas Transit Authority and a marketing company used by CATA after the sides couldn’t agree to a security deposit to pay for any potential repairs.

Wright told the coalition it would have to pay a security deposit before its ads could be used. But the marketing company, On the Move Advertising, could not impose any extra conditions on the coalition, Wright said.

Free speech rights applied to bus advertising even if a private company, On the Move, administered them, she said.

— From news service reports