RELIGION

Full appeals court to hear challenge to prayers at meetings

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.