I am standing with Senator Chip Campsen in trying to get the United States Supreme Court to rule on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal’s holding that legislative bodies cannot reference God in their opening invocations.
Senator Campsen sent out a release yesterday that has more information:
South Carolina State Senator Chip Campsen filed an Amicus Curiae brief yesterday with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Forsyth County v. Joyner. An Amicus Curiae or “Friend of the Court” brief is when someone not a party to a suit files a brief with the Court because of a particular interest in the subject matter.
In the North Carolina case Forsyth County v. Joyner, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that invocations, or prayers given before legislative bodies convene, must be non-sectarian. In other words, they must not reference a deity. In the brief Senator Campsen argues that the United States Supreme Court should issue a Writ of Certiorari, or accept the case, to settle discrepancies concerning invocations that exist among the various federal circuits.
Senator Campsen said, “The 4th Circuit’s holding that sectarian invocations are unconstitutional should be reversed. Supreme Court precedence does not dictate such a stridently secular outcome, which is also at odds with other circuits. We are asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn this decision, which will have a stifling effect on invocations due to the uncertainty it engenders.”
Senator Campsen notes that several circuits have upheld sectarian invocations, as has the U.S Supreme Court in Marsh v. Chambers (1983), as long as they are “not exploited to proselytize or advance or disparage a particular religious belief.” In the brief Senator Campsen argues that the 4th Circuit failed to appropriately apply the holding of Marsh and thereby erred in ruling sectarian invocations unconstitutional.
Senator Campsen is joined by South Carolina Senators Hugh Leatherman, Glenn McConnell, Harvey Peeler, John Courson, David Thomas, Billy O’Dell, Wes Hayes, Larry Martin, Luke Rankin, Greg Ryberg, Thomas Alexander, Mike Fair, Larry Grooms, Danny Verdin, Jake Knotts, Ronnie Cromer, Kevin Bryant, Ray Cleary, Paul Campbell, Shane Massey, Lee Bright, Tom Davis, Shane Martin, Mike Rose, Phil Shoopman and Greg Gregory in petitioning the nation’s highest court to accept the case. The Senators have an interest in the matter because Senator Campsen authored, and the General Assembly passed, the South Carolina Public Invocation Act. It serves as a guideline for legislative bodies to assure invocations don’t run afoul of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Unless overturned, Forsyth County clouds the issue of public invocations.
Senator Campsen concluded, “I appreciate my fellow senators standing with me in defending the right to pray in the public square, and thank Tim Newton and J.R.. Murphy of Murphy & Grantland, P.A. for their assistance in preparing the brief.”