DANVILLE, Va. - The fight over prayers at public meetings of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors is headed into mediation.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski agreed Friday to let the board and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia try to reach a settlement after both sides requested it, The Register & Bee of Danville reported ( http://bit.ly/UlSjTu).
The ACLU is arguing on behalf of Barbara Hudson, who contends the prayers by a public body amount to an endorsement of religion. The board denies that claim.
Both sides in the dispute were seeking a summary judgment without trial.
On Friday, the ACLU argued that Hudson had suffered injury and been made to feel like an outsider by the board's practice of holding sectarian Christian prayer during meetings.
Urbanski issued a preliminary injunction against the board in February ordering members to cease holding sectarian prayers during public meetings pending the outcome of the case. Since then, ministers have led Christian prayers during the citizen portion of the meeting.
ACLU Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg argued that supervisors' practice of bowing their heads and saying "Amen" during that time continued to affiliate the board with sectarian Christian prayers.
The board's attorney, state Sen. Bill Stanley, argued that Hudson's hatred of the board motivated her to file the lawsuit and that she had not specified how she had been injured by the board's prayers.
"We're supremely confident in our arguments," Stanley said afterword.
Glenberg declined to comment after the case was sent into mediation.
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