$10,000 a Prayer: If Humanist Group Prevails in Court, These Elected Officials May Owe Hefty Fine for Violating Law

For the second time in less than a week, the Carroll County (Maryland) Board of Commissioners has defied a judge’s decision and opened a meeting with a prayer to Jesus.

Last week, a day after a judge told them to stop the illegal practice, commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier chose to break the law:

Robin Bartlett Frazier

Carroll County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier opened up Thursday morning’s Carroll County Board of Commissioners budget meeting with a prayer containing references to Jesus Christ…

Frazier, who seemed near tears, began the meeting by expressing her displeasure with the judge’s ruling. Frazier, R-District 1, said she was willing to go to jail to fight the preliminary injunction ruling.

“If we cease to believe that our rights come from God, we cease to be America,” Frazier said. “We’ve been told to be careful. But we’re going to be careful all the way to Communism if we don’t start standing up and saying ‘no.’”

She then proceeded to quote a prayer that she said was by George Washington, which included references to Jesus Christ, Lord, our Father, merciful father and the Holy Spirit.

Mind you, she could’ve delivered a non-denominational prayer, but that wasn’t good enough for her. It’s Jesus or Communism!

(Incidentally, the prayer she recited wasn’t even written by George Washington.)

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent the commissioners’ lawyers a warning letter last week saying they weren’t going to file a contempt charge… yet.

Well, they’re filing that contempt charge now:

Yesterday, the Board of Commissioners opened their meeting with a non-sectarian prayer, but then invited another speaker, Bruce Holstein, reportedly the campaign manager of one of the commissioners, to speak. He read a statement that was harshly critical of the court order, even saying that he was “overruling” the federal court, then ended his speech with a prayer that expressly referenced Jesus Christ. At no time did the commissioners interrupt or attempt to stop Mr. Holstein’s speech and prayer.

It’s more than just contempt. The AHA is demanding the court issue the commissioners a heavy fine:

THEREFORE, the Plaintiffs respectfully request that a contempt order be issued against the Defendants, requiring them to pay a fine to the Plaintiff, American Humanist Association in the amount of $30,000. The Plaintiffs further request that the Court order the Defendants to pay the American Humanist Association $10,000 for each additional violation of this Court’s Injunction Order going forward.

If you watch video from the meeting, it’s easy to offer an additional piece of advice to the commissioners: Don’t insult the judge who holds your fate in his hands. Here’s what AHA plaintiff Bruce Hake said:

The political statement preceding [Holstein's] prayer implicitly accuses Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. of being a liberal activist whose policies have led to evils like abortion.

I’m sure the judge will still make an impartial decision, but this appears to be a clear-cut case. The judge ruled that the Commissioners could not have sectarian prayers at meetings. They’ve now defied that ruling twice. It’s clear they’d rather become martyrs for the Christian cause instead of doing the right thing. Maybe when taxpayers realize how their dollars are being wasted by the commissioners because they just don’t have the willpower to keep their religious beliefs to themselves, they’ll vote these people out of office.

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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