Rowan County Commissioners Vote to Waste Taxpayer Money by Reciting Christian Prayers at Meetings

It’s pretty bad when both your local government and a local church join hands to do everything wrong, and that’s precisely what’s happening in Rowan County, North Carolina.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners prays at a meeting (via WSOC-TV)

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners has been opening its meetings with Christian prayers for over five years now, but local residents (with the help of the ACLU of North Carolina) are finally fighting back with a lawsuit (PDF):

“I want my local government to be open and welcoming to people of all beliefs,” said Nan Lund, a Salisbury resident who is one of three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. “But when officials begin a public meeting with prayers that are specific to only one religious viewpoint, I feel unwelcome and excluded.

The commissioners, who deliver the prayers themselves, routinely call on Jesus Christ and refer to other sectarian beliefs during invocations. Opening invocations have declared that “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” as well as given thanks for the “virgin birth,” the “cross at Calvary,” and “the resurrection.”

According to the lawsuit, “97% of Board meetings in the past five-and-a-half years have featured sectarian prayer.” In other cases where these sorts of prayers have been allowed, they’ve at least been generic prayers that didn’t reference one prophet or another.

In response, last night, the Commissioners voted to hire a lawyer to defend their right to break the law. And nearby Cornerstone Church was ready to give them $10,000 to pay for legal fees (because Jesus is only happy when Christians shove their faith down everybody’s throats).

The Board didn’t accept the money, but only for the time being. They may take donations in the future, which is good, since they’ll lose this lawsuit and waste taxpayer money in the process.

The citizens who showed up at last night’s meeting were about as ignorant as the Commissioners:

“Commissioners I ask you to continue to pray and ask for guidance before you make a decision for our county,” said one man.

“The Constitution gives us the freedom of religion, not from religion,” said Pastor Bill Godair, from Cornerstone Church.

“We think it’s not just a matter of principle for this county it’s a matter of principle for the entire state of North Carolina,” said Jim Sides, the Rowan County Chairman.

“Nobody wants you to stop praying. Pray. That’s how we all see things, just because some don’t see it the same way, it doesn’t make it wrong,” said Veleria Levy, from Kannapolis.

If someone can explain that last one to me, I’d appreciate it…

Some Christian lawyers will represent the city for free, no doubt, but when they lose, it’ll be the taxpayers on the hook. (In which case, I’d love to see the church throw its money away.)

One thing the news reports didn’t mention were whether any Christians were brave enough to stand up to the Commissioners and say there needed to be a separation of church and state. Where are they? Why are they not speaking up?

This is just an idiotic move by the elected leaders. They care more about being able to proselytize to everybody than they do what’s best for the county. They’re being selfish and the citizens are the ones who’ll have to pony up for their irresponsibility. For that reason alone, these people need to be voted out of office.

(Thanks to J S for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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