I recently posted about the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina and how they used to pray to Jesus at virtually every meeting.
U.S. District Judge James Beaty Jr. ruled last month that the Commissioners were violating the law and continued to do so every time they uttered a Christian prayer. (The legal thing to do would be to open up the invocations to people of all faiths and no faith.)
But as they were deciding whether or not to appeal the ruling, instead of stopping the prayers, the Commissioners kept them going. For the past few weeks, the prayers have be offered by Pastor Michael Taylor, the Sheriff’s Office chaplain (a position you’d think is also illegal…).
Keep in mind that asking the pastor to speak on their behalf is still illegal. As it stands, no non-Christian is allowed to deliver these invocations and the Supreme Court explicitly prohibited that in Greece v. Galloway.
Which brings us to what happened earlier this week. The new Chairman of the Commissioners, Greg Edds made a long speech detailing why he felt appealing the decision was the best path forward.
And it’s clear that he really doesn’t get the law — and the taxpayers will eventually have to pay the price for his ignorance.
Here’s what his argument boils down to:
He said the biggest question for Rowan County is whether it matters who provides prayer, pastors or commissioners. It’s a question he’s pondered and one that hasn’t fully been addressed, Edds said.
“The court had the perfect opportunity to say, ‘We find no threat to the establishment clause posed by solemnizing prayers offered up at the beginning of public meetings even if they’re sectarian in nature, as long as they’re conducted by a chaplain or member of the local clergy,” Edds said. “Instead, their decision addressed only the issue of sectarian prayer and their affect on the establishment clause and the issue of coercion.”
This issue has been addressed multiple times and it’s very simply: Commissioners can’t lead prayers because that’s like a government endorsement of religion. Clearly unconstitutional.
What the Greece v. Galloway decision says is that members of the clergy can deliver prayers — as long as members of all faiths (and no faith) are allowed to give invocations as well.
If the Rowan County Commissioners want to have prayers at meetings, they have to be open to the possibility that an atheist, Satanist, Muslim, Hindu, or Pagan may be the one giving it.
Based on Edds’ speech, they have no idea that’s how it works.
After he finished talking, there was a unanimous vote in favor of appealing the ruling. So they’re going to fight to keep their prayers. What they’re doing now is illegal, so I doubt it’ll stand. And, after wasting taxpayer money paying off the church/state separation side’s legal fees, if they change the policy to allow anyone to deliver the prayer, I promise you non-Christians will find their way into that queue and it will be glorious.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)