Carroll County, Maryland Sued for Promoting Christianity at Board Meetings

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association has just sued Carroll County, Maryland for opening their Board of Commissioners’ public meetings with “Commissioner-delivered sectarian prayers.”

In other words, not only do the Commissioners hold prayers at meetings, they praise Jesus like nobody’s business.

What’s surprising about this case may be the nature of one of the plaintiffs:

Plaintiff Bruce A. Hake objects to the Sectarian Prayers on religious grounds. He is a religious Roman Catholic, and he believes the Sectarian Prayers violate his First Amendment rights to religious liberty by advancing a version of Christianity that is historically anti- Catholic. In addition, he believes that the Sectarian Prayers violate principles set forth clearly in the Christian Bible, and thus violate his religious liberties by forcing him either to avoid Board meetings or be forced to participate in proceedings that violate his religious faith. In addition, Mr. Hake is the owner of a business in Carroll County (a small law firm), and he believes that the Sectarian Prayers create a hostile environment that is potentially harmful to his business.

So you can’t even pin this on fire-breathing atheists.

Anyway, the complaint (PDF) explains what’s going on in Carroll County:

A review of the video recordings of Board meetings during 2011 and 20121 reveals that on at least 54 separate occasions, Sectarian Prayers were delivered containing the Christian references identified in the following list on the dates identified: 1/4/2011 (“Jesus”); 1/18/2011 (“Jesus”); 1/19/2012 (the Lord’s Prayer); 1/25/2011 (“Savior”); 1/27/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/8/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/15/2011 (“Jesus”); 2/22/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/3/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/22/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/29/2011 (“Jesus”); 3/31/2011 (“Jesus”); 4/14/2011 (“Jesus”); 4/26/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/3/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/12/2011 (“Jesus”); 5/19/2011 (“Jesus”); 6/16/2011 (“Jesus”); 7/21/2011 (“Jesus”); 7/28/2011 (“Savior”); 8/9/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/1/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/29/2011 (“Jesus”); 10/6/2011 (“Jesus”); 10/31/2011 (“in Jesus, my Savior’s name, I pray”); 11/3/2011 (“Savior”); 12/8/2011 (“Jesus”); 12/13/2011 (“Savior”); 1/11/2012 (“Savior”); 1/24/2012 (“Jesus”); 2/9/2012 (“Jesus”); 2/16/2012 (“Savior”); 3/1/2012 (“Savior”); 3/21/2012 (“Jesus”); 4/5/2012 (“Savior”); 4/16/2012 (“Jesus”); 4/24/2012 (“Savior”); 5/29/2012 (“Savior”); 6/7/2012 (“Jesus”); 6/28/2012 (“Jesus”); 7/5/2012 (“Jesus”); 7/19/2012 (“Jesus”); 8/14/2012 (“Jesus”); 8/28/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/1/2011 (“Jesus”); 9/4/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/13/2012 (“Jesus”); 9/20/2012 (“Savior”); 10/4/2012 (“Jesus”); 10/11/2012 (“Savior”); 10/25/2012 (“Savior”); 11/13/2012 (“Savior”); 11/29/2012 (“Jesus”); and 12/6/2012 (“Savior”).

During this two year period, none of the official prayers delivered by the Commissioners mentioned non-Christian deities or used non-Christian language.

So this Board isn’t even trying to be inclusive on this one. It’s Jesus all the way.

This is the same Board, by the way, that urged county employees to attend a training course on the Maryland Constitution hosted by a Christian group that promoted the idea that “There is a God, the God of the Bible. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to secure these God-given rights.”

They’ve gotten away with promoting religion in their government roles for too long; that may finally stop if the courts do the right thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Sven2547

    The intermingling of religion and government is every bit as poisonous to religion as it is to government. Even Catholics should be able to see it (and some do).

  • rustygh

    Good! All religions should be outlawed. They harbor hate.

    • Sven2547

      That’s a very dumb approach, and nobody but you is suggesting that here.

      • rustygh

        When it happens you’ll be right in the blog kissing as$ and agreeing. Seen your kind. I posted what I feel. Don’t care what you think.

        • Sven2547

          You don’t care what I think, but you’re happy to opine about what “my kind” think? What a hypocrite.

    • Wild Rumpus

      No, all religions should just fade away due to irrelevancy.

    • TiltedHorizon

      “All religions should be outlawed” – This statement embodies more hate than the religions you wish to outlaw.

      • rustygh

        How blind are you? Not even close.

        • TiltedHorizon

          “How blind are you?”

          As long as we have the freedom to challenge ideas we are free to openly criticize and raise awareness of the negative aspects of faith. Your assertion would see our freedoms diminished or demolished. We are either ALL free, or we fail. I can “see” that, why can’t you?

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      rustygh, words are powerful. They can cause great good or cause great harm. We must use them responsibly. Like a weapon, if they are tossed about recklessly they can blow up in your face. Feel your feelings, yes. Then take several deep breaths and think carefully about what you want to say, not just about self-centeredly getting it off your chest, but about what effect your words will have on others.

      The position you expressed is no different from that of a Dominionist. We must all be free, or none of us will be free. The way to accomplish this is just as the law states and as it should be more consistently applied: Keep religion and government separate on every level because they corrupt each other. In countries that tried to outlaw religion, religion persisted in a strong underground. In Europe, religion has been allowed to continue to make itself increasingly irrelevant, and it is steadily going extinct. In the U.S., religion is hemorrhaging members especially among the young as if both illiac arteries are severed. In a couple of generations, it will be far less powerful and influential than it is today.

      A balance of both patience and diligence will preserve our freedoms while society continues to change.

      • rustygh

        I believe in my words. I have seen religions promote hate and evil all the way to the level of murder. My wanting to outlaw those filthy despicable religions in no way comes close to the evil they promote!

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          If you live in a country where religion can be outlawed, then you live in a country where your own ideas, views and opinions can and will be outlawed as well. Don’t be naive to assume you will somehow be immune from the totalitarian thought police state you are proposing.

    • stop2wonder

      I Look Forward To The Day Religion Is Abandoned, Not Outlawed.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Christians should be firmly in the state-and-church separation camp because of their own history of persecuting those they don’t consider to be True Christians™.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Oddly, that history of discriminatory persecution might well be part of why a Catholic is the one pushing here.

    • liu

      Ironically enough, it often falls to the secularists in society, whether they be atheists, agnostics, or humanists, to stand up for freedom from religion in this country, and protect the religious from themselves.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    This is happening in Carroll County, Maryland so I’m not shocked at all. Carroll County is not the most liberal of places in Maryland. Almost 57% of Carroll County voted against same sex marriage last year. They are not going to go down without a fight.

    • benanov

      Then I’ll just have to vote them out of office next year.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        I hope you do. I grew up in Maryland myself in PG, Montgomery County. Best of luck in your fight with them.

  • benanov

    This is my current county. I have a problem with the other plaintiff, he made some statements to the local paper that he’d be fine with “Creator” instead of God or Jesus. That’s not acceptable to me!

    I’m researching how to file an Amicus Curiae brief because I am not convinced they won’t settle and come to some sort of deal that basically allows these sort of monotheistic references.

    I can only hope the Humanist Association is not willing to settle.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Don’t settle.

    Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t settle. Don’t Settle.
    (chant)
    DO… NOT… SET… TLE
    DO… NOT… SET… TLE
    DO… NOT… SET… TLE
    DO… NOT… SET… TLE

    Allowing these petty dominionists, these mayors, city councils, county commissioners, principals, school boards, sheriffs, police chiefs, employers, and legislators who repeatedly flout the law with naked defiance to settle out of court for some token tap on-the-wrist penalty is effectively the same as conceding defeat. They will not stop until they are sued so severely, so painfully that their constituents vote them out of office for bankrupting their town. They think “God is on their side,” so they won’t cease and desist until you put “the fear of God” into them, and that’s spelled D-O-L-L-A-R-S.

  • Alice

    There is no God? From where, then, do we get our unalienable rights? Or are there no unalienable rights either?

    • meekinheritance

      All species evolve to procreate the species. Ethics grew out of that. Unalienable rights grew out of that.


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