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Prayer battle could go back to judge

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Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:26 pm

The legal fight over sectarian public prayer during meetings of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors still has not been settled publicly.

If the two sides fail to reach an agreement before a magistrate judge, the case would return to the initial judge, who would issue a ruling, said ACLU Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg.

There is no formal deadline to reach a settlement, Glenberg said. Attorneys for the ACLU and the board of supervisors have remained tight-lipped about the case since a Dec. 6 mediation hearing in Roanoke.

U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski agreed Sept. 21 to allow the board and the ACLU to attempt to come to an agreement after a hearing on their requests for summary judgment that were filed in August.

Both sides requested mediation during the hearing that was held in Danville.

The Virginia ACLU, on behalf of Pittsylvania County resident Barbara Hudson, filed a lawsuit against the board in September 2011 over its practice of holding Christian prayers during its regular public meetings.

Hudson contends the board’s practice favors one faith over another, amounts to government advancement of religion and excludes those of another belief. The board says Hudson has not shown evidence of injury and seeks to harm the county.

The board continued leading Christian prayers during meetings after the lawsuit was filed, until Urbanski issued a preliminary injunction in February ordering members to cease holding prayers pending the case’s outcome.

Since then, the board has started meetings with a moment of silence and Christian ministers have led prayers during the citizens’ hearing portion of the meetings.

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