After One Brave Member Resigned in Protest, School Board Votes Against Public Prayers at Meetings

Earlier this month, the Rockingham County Board of Education (North Carolina) debated whether or not they should pray at meetings instead of sticking to a moment of silence.

One board member, Leonard Pryor, was so appalled this would even be considered that he resigned in protest, presumably before any lawsuits came their way:

Leonard Pryor

On Monday night, after plenty of discussion, the board correctly voted 7-3 against the prayers:

“We were elected to serve the students of Rockingham County,” said board member Amanda Bell, who voted against the motion. “We were not elected to serve ourselves.”

Chairwoman Nell Rose, Vice Chairman Hal Griffin, as well as board members Wayne Kirkman, Elaine McCollum, Lorie McKinney and Bob Wyatt also voted against it.

Smart move on the board’s part — they can focus on doing what’s best for the students instead of wasting time appeasing Christians who think all government meetings ought to be like church services.

Meanwhile, Josh Austin, Ron Price and Steve Smith — all of whom voted for the prayer — are out of luck. (I don’t know how they’re going to function with this notion of silent prayer… If no one knows you’re praying, it doesn’t really count, does it?)

So far, Pryor hasn’t said anything about the vote, but it’s very likely thanks to him that the other board members decided to vote the right way. He saved them from losing a lot of money in a potential lawsuit. Forget God — the other board members should publicly thank Pryor for what he did to bring attention to this matter.

(Thanks to Brian 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.

  • Rain

    “We were elected to serve the students of Rockingham County,” said board member Amanda Bell, who voted against the motion. “We were not elected to serve ourselves.”

    +1! I’m framing that one! In the blockquote! It earned the Rain hall of blockquote award. It’s a lot of trouble typing them blockquote thingies uo there…

  • A3Kr0n

    Some stories have logical, happy endings.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: Re: “(I don’t know how they’re going to function with this notion of silent prayer… If no one knows you’re praying, it doesn’t really count, does it?)”

    Actually, any good, dutiful Christian who’s read his/her Bible knows that quite the opposite is the case. According to no less an authority than Jesus himself, prayers don’t actually count at all when they’re done in public; they count only when done silently and in private:

    “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)

    That said, since most American Christians don’t bother reading their Bibles, the vast majority are blissfully unaware of this clear instruction. To the contrary, they rather blasphemously believe they must pray only as publicly as they can arrange, and on government time and property.

    • Matt

      That was the joke.

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

      This is how Christians respond to Matthew 6:5-6

      “Then you are attempting to deceive with your comment. Clearly Jesus was speaking about “private prayer” which has nothing to do with the story we are discussing!”

      “You don’t know the difference between public prayer and private prayer! Nice try though…..maybe if you read the bible for Devine understanding you might!”

      “It was not: public prayer is bad, don’t do it.
      It is: be careful when you do good things in public that your heart attitude and motive is not to make yourself look good.”

      The above comments where just made to me yesterday when I dropped the same verse on them.

      • Mario Strada

        I hope you replied that apparently neither Jesus or whomever quoted him felt it necessary to insert 5 disclaimers in that sentence. Hence what he meant was “do not pray in public like the hypocrites”.

        There is only one reasonable retort to that verse, if the person praying in public does it as if he/she was praying in private, sincerely unaware of the place and those surrounding him/her.
        I can let that by, but then I would warn them that lying to jesus is a lot worse than lying to me and they only know if they are lying or not when they claim their intention is to pray in public as if they were in private.

        Fucking hypocrites!

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

          I did reply but of course they replied with bible, bible, bible, you are wrong, more bible.

      • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

        I’ve heard replies along these lines myself. Unfortunately they simply don’t fly. While Jesus was talking about “motives,” he also was telling his followers what to do, and what not to do. I’m not sure how clearer he could have been when he said, “… when you pray, go into your inner room ….” Maybe it’s just you and I, but that’s an explicit instruction, and it contains no caveats.

        It’s just another of the tens of thousands of ways in which Christians rationalize doing things they’ve been forbidden to do.

      • BenFromCA

        “Christians” simply re-interpret the bibble to suit their pathetic, self-righteous notions-of-the-moment. It’s just a big fan club. Sadly, it’s a fan club who’s subject is a fairy tale.

  • Mario Strada

    Love the disappointment in the comments at the FOX website. According to them, we are all going to hell.

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

      Melissa Helms-Andrews 1 day ago

      Separation of Church and State was made law, to protect the Church and those who worship God (initially a Baptist Church in a letter of concern, written to Thomas Jefferson), from the Government, not to remove God from the government. It is absurd how ignorant people, especially elected government officials are, when it comes to this Country’s Constitution!!

      • Mario Strada

        This Melissa character is a real piece of work. Then there is this John guy that argues everyone’s opposite point. And I mean he is on both sides of the argument.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Tanner B James

    What’s up with those Northerners. /sarcasm

  • Glasofruix

    I can’t understand your obsession with silly rituals, why the hell do you yanks feel compelled to pray/be silent/vodoo dance before a meeting? It’s not like it would help or anything…


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