Secular victory: A North Carolina county has banned opening prayers at public meetings.
Opening prayers were banned at Lincoln County Board of Commissioners board meetings after an angry Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem stormed out of a meeting Monday night right before the board’s first Muslim invocation.
Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that “coercive” Christian prayers at public meetings in a neighboring North Carolina county were unconstitutional, prompting Lincoln County to change their prayer policy, giving all faith communities an opportunity to offer opening prayers.
Previously Lincoln County had only allowed Christian prayers at public meetings.
However, Chairman Mitchem has always been a vocal opponent to any non-Christian prayers being heard at public meetings.
Claiming that the “U.S. was founded on Christianity” Mitchem had previously declared that only Christian prayers would be allowed at county meetings, telling WBTV-TV:
The U.S. was founded on Christianity. I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities. The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity. This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I’m standing up for.
Mitchem, demonstrating extreme animosity towards the idea of Muslims offering public prayers, said:
A Muslim? He comes in here to say a prayer, I’m going to tell him to leave. I have no use for (those) people. They don’t need to be here praying to Allah or whoever the hell they pray to. I’m not going to listen to (a) Muslim pray.
Expressing anger at the federal court ruling ordering North Carolina counties to stop opening meetings with “coercive” sectarian prayers Mitchem said:
Changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded (I don’t like). I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.
True to his word, when the first non-Christian prayer was offered by a Muslim on Monday night, an angry Mitchem stormed out of the meeting.
As a result of Mitchem’s tantrum, a motion was made to end the county’s brand new all-inclusive invocation policy in exchange for a simple moment of silence.
After chastising Board of Commissioners Chairman Carrol Mitchem for walking out of the chamber prior to the Muslim invocation, Commissioner Alex Patton made the motion to substitute opening prayers with a moment of silence
The motion passed, with only Mitchem dissenting.
Commissioner Alex Patton, who proposed the change in policy, said he is trying to protect religion by banning it from the board room. Patton is right. Religion belongs in the home, in the church, in the mosque, and in the synagogue, but not in government meetings.
Bottom line: Good news. County meetings will now be opened with a moment of silence instead of sectarian prayers.
Let’s hope more government officials have the good sense to end the practice of offensive and divisive sectarian prayers at public meetings.