Rowan County Commissioners Adhere to Federal Ban Regarding Prayer
Rowan County Commissioners have found a way to continue their tradition of praying before their meeting without disobeying a federal order.
Prior to the start of Monday afternoon's meeting, members took a brief recess, left the room and met behind closed doors. Then they prayed for about three minutes, reports the Salisbury Post. Meanwhile, inside the meeting room, someone in the audience stood , prayed and ended it “in Jesus’ name.” The commissioners returned as that prayer was ending. Then Chairman Jim Sides started the meeting by reading a statement about the federal injunction in an ongoing lawsuit over prayer at board meetings.
Last month, a federal judge handed down an injunction banning the commissioners from opening their meeting with a specific religious prayer. It came in response to a March lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. They filed it on behalf of three Rowan County residents complaining commissioners were opening their meetings with prayers that were only specific to the Christian religion -- prayers they claim are unconstitutional.
Monday's meeting was the commissioner's first since a federal judge ordered them to immediately stop opening their public meetings with prayers specific to one religion. Commission Chairman Jim Sides says the panel disagrees with the court order, but says the commission will comply with the order while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a similar prayer case.
Opening meetings with a Christian-based prayer is a 20-year tradition by Rowan County Commissioners.