US Supreme Court Decides Prayer At Meetings is Constitutional
ROWAN COUNTY, NC - Rowan County Commissioners hope a US Supreme Court decision in favor of Christian prayer Monday will help their case.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Rowan County Commission last March for opening meetings with prayer in Jesus' name.
A federal judge ordered commissioners to stop, but now commissioners say they could have a stronger case now that the highest court ruled sectarian prayer at meetings is constitutional. The Supreme Court made a 5-4 decision Monday, in a separate case, saying opening town council meetings with Christian prayer does not violate the constitution.
"Like Neil Armstrong said when he stepped on the moon: this is one small step for man, one giant step for mankind," said Rowan County Commission Chair Jim Sides.
Thousands have rallied outside commission meetings in the more than year-long battle over prayer.
Commissioners were forced to take the name "Jesus" out of their prayers.
Sides says the commission's attorney is already working to get the lawsuit against them dropped.
"My understanding is it has already caused some injunctions to be dropped. We're hoping that will be the case for Rowan County," said Sides.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three residents in March of 2013, citing more than 97 percent of board meetings since 2007 had been opened with prayers specific to one religion: Christianity.
"If one or two people in the audience don't agree with my prayer, then they have the legal right and the option to step outside," said Rowan County Commission Vice Chair Craig Pierce.
Residents against Christian prayers in public meetings say the practice is offensive and should be done behind closed doors.
"There are other ways to handle this than to be so aggressive and so egregious and just trying to be so hard-nosed about it," said GeoRene Jones, a Salisbury resident.
"Take an adjournment of three minutes and go in the back room and pray," said Jones.
Commissioners tell me they will abide by the injunction until the lawsuit against them is dismissed.
The ACLU said in a statement Monday: "Opening government meetings with prayers from a specific religious viewpoint tells citizens with different beliefs that they are not welcome and sends a message that the government endorses certain religious views over others".