Wiccan Priestess Sues Chesterfield for Right to Pray - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Wiccan Priestess Sues Chesterfield for Right to Pray

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) - Should a Wiccan priestess be allowed to pray before meetings in Chesterfield County? It's a question that goes back more than a decade but is again making headlines.

Cynthia Simpson, a Wiccan priestess, made national headlines in 2002 when she sued Chesterfield County after it refused to include her on its list of religious leaders invited to pray at board meetings.

"I'm receiving religious intolerance from my own government," Simpson said in 2002. "It's not from a private group, it's not from an informal association, it's from my own government."

Simpson went on to sue Chesterfield and won, but eventually lost in the court of appeals. Her case made national news, but the ACLU says a recent Supreme Court ruling has reignited the fight.

Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga with the ACLU says the court recently ruled that prayers were allowed before meetings, but prayer opportunities must be available to people of all faiths. In a letter, the ACLU asks Chesterfield to rescind its policy of only allowing "ordained religious leaders of monotheistic religions" to give invocations before meetings.

"If you're going to insist on having legislative prayers, you can't restrict them to just monotheistic religions," Gastanaga says.

Chesterfield sent this statement:

"Chesterfield County has followed the ruling of the fourth circuit court of appeals in the Simpson v. Chesterfield County case to conduct invocations at board of supervisors' meetings. We will similarly follow the requirements of the new Supreme Court decision in the town of Greece case as we go forward."

The ACLU has given the county 14 days to respond. They say they have yet to get a response and if they never receive one, they've "gone to court before and know how to go to court again."

The ACLU says it has suggested supervisors have a moment of silence at every meeting, that way everyone would be free to pray however they please.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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