Wiccan Seeks $65,000 in Public Prayer Case

A small South Carolina (search) town is facing a hefty legal bill after losing a battle over whether it should stop using Jesus Christ's (search) name in prayers before council meetings.

The U.S. Supreme Court (search) refused in June to hear the town's appeal of a lower court ruling over the prayers.

Now Darla Wynne wants Great Falls to pay her more than $65,000 to cover legal bills. A judge is expected to rule on the matter within the next two months.

Wynne, who describes herself as a Wiccan priestess, sued Great Falls in 2001, saying the town violated the separation between church and state by using the name Jesus Christ in prayers because it promoted one religion over the other.

The money is not covered by insurance, and it is unclear where the town about 2,200 residents would get the cash. The amount is about 7 percent its annual budget.

"It'll be an enormous undertaking for us," town attorney Michael Hemlepp said.

Wynne's lawyer said attorneys had incurred only about $18,000 in expenses before the town decided to appeal. "We spent two years in extra litigation while they went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I think the case was clear from the beginning," said attorney Herbert Buhl.

The Rev. Michael Sollers, pastor of Evangel Temple Assembly of God, said most of the town supported the council's decision to keep fighting the case and would be willing to help pay the legal fees.