Edited from a Press Release
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey defended the tradition of legislative prayer as part of a 20-state coalition supporting the U.S. House of Representatives in a federal appeals court challenge to its centuries-old practice.

The states argue that forcing the House to allow something other than prayer to open its sessions would disregard the history of legislative prayer, U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the notion of legislative prayer itself.
The coalition also argues any such ruling would violate the Constitution’s separation of powers and potentially open states and local governments, including West Virginia, to legal challenge.
“Prayer is woven into the fabric of our nation,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Legislative leaders have relied upon the Almighty’s guidance for centuries. This practice has been upheld by the courts, and I find no reason to change course with something as fundamental as prayer.”
The coalition’s brief, filed last week, argues the plaintiff’s challenge attacks the heart of legislative prayer. Granting it would amount to a ruling that legislatures cannot devote time exclusively to prayer, upending decades of case law that clearly allows legislatures to dedicate such a time as religious exercise to seek divine guidance.
The states also argue that separation of powers require any challenge to House rules to be filed with the House – not the courts. The brief contends any decision granting the plaintiff’s request would amount to judicial interference as the U.S. Constitution and most state constitutions give legislative bodies the power to determine, interpret and apply their own rules.
West Virginia joined the Oklahoma-led effort with Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
The brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, can be read at http://bit.ly/2JX8yTm.