A former member of the Rockingham County Board of Education in North Carolina, in his first act as a civilian after 12 years on the board, used the public comments portion of a recent meeting to urge the new board to institute Christian prayers as part of the monthly agenda.
Ron Price, an ordained minister, said he was always outnumbered when he made the proposals while on the board, but he’s still holding out hope that the new members can break the law.
But having signed up for the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Price took to the podium as a civilian and announced his wish to bless the new board members.
He then led the packed meeting room of nearly 100 in about three minutes of Christian prayer.
He can do that as a citizen. If the board did it, they would be subject to a lawsuit — and they would lose.
What’s even more appalling than his suggestion was the justification he used. There’s a portion of the North Carolina constitution that forbids atheists from holding public office. In a section explaining who’s disqualified from public office, it explicitly mentions “any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”
But that law is superseded by the U.S. Constitution which bars any religious test for public office. It’s toothless. Yet Price still used it to imply Christian prayers were legally acceptable:
Before praying, Price cited an outdated law from the state’s constitution that holds that any individual running for public office in North Carolina must believe in “Almighty God.”
The state law, however, has been in violation of federal law for nearly 60 years, explained Mike Meno, communications director for the North Carolina headquarters of the American Civil Liberties Union in Durham, who spoke to RockinghamNow on Thursday.
The mandate “has been found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and unenforceable,” Meno said.
So a Christian who’s too ignorant to understand the law argued that new board members should subject the district to potential lawsuits by using their meetings to advertise his personal faith.
Good riddance to a man too dumb to run any sort of public school board.
The good news is that a majority of the new board members didn’t seem to share his views. They didn’t say Christians prayers were a bad idea, per se, but that they didn’t want to lose a lawsuit. It’s a cowardly way to do the right thing.
Except for one dude.
When the board’s attorney explained the concerns about losing a lawsuit by promoting Christianity at meetings, Republican Doug Isley, who wants the prayers, said the board should just replace the attorney.
Longtime board attorney Jill Wilson has also outlined the legal risks of adopting prayer during numerous school board meetings this year.
She has echoed Wright’s concerns, explaining that instituting prayer would be an unconstitutional move that could increase the school system’s vulnerability to costly lawsuits.
Wilson, who has served the board since 1991, has vast experience as counsel to numerous N.C. public and private schools and universities, as well as the Guilford County Schools.
Despite her expertise, her warnings about legal issues surrounding prayer may have landed her in the cross hairs of one new board member.
Republican Doug Isley, who campaigned for his school board post with pro-prayer slogan campaign cards, on Wednesday night called for the board to begin advertising for a replacement for Wilson.
His motion failed. But Isley isn’t going away. If he ever gets what he wants regarding prayer, the students in the district are the ones who will ultimately suffer because the district will have to pay a lot of money in legal fees after they lose. And they will lose. It’s just too bad Isley doesn’t give a damn about the kids and cares far more about advancing his religious propaganda.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)