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Debate on prayer issue continues

by Larry Chowning

The issue of beginning Middlesex County Board of Supervisors meetings with an open prayer continues to be debated. Several county citizens spoke on the issue during the public comment period at the November 6 board meeting.

Board chair Carlton Revere announced in September a prayer would no longer be said at the beginning of board meetings, but instead there would be a “moment of silence” for military personnel who are fighting for our country.

Middlesex County attorney Mike Soberick had earlier advised Revere, for legal reasons, to stop having the open prayer. The county received an email in August from an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin, which indicated a local person had complained that a prayer was being said at board meetings.

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors was recently sued for saying a prayer in open meetings, and a judge ruled that county must pay $59,000 to the plaintiff. That suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, the Pittsylvania County Attorney has asked the Fourth U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals to stay the ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court decides on a similar case involving the town of Greece, N.Y. This case has been heard, but the Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling.

Citizen Comments
Kelly Lowe said she does not understand why, in a democracy, where the majority rules, that saying a public prayer is even an issue. “Why does one person, who doesn’t want to pray, have so much impact on the rest of us?” she asked. 

Buddy Moore said supervisors have “violated a sacred trust and should go home and hang your heads. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can’t open this meeting with a prayer. We are one nation under God.

“You (referring to all supervisors) have violated the trust of so many of our citizens who have died for our freedom,” Moore continued. “Madison, Wisconsin, should not be allowed to dictate the way we pray.”

Clark Waring noted a prayer is said at the beginning of every Supreme Court session.

Monica Sanders said, “We need to support God and be on His side instead of being afraid. We need God on our side.”

Ken Wilt said the county is going to be sued whether it allows or does not allow a prayer, so “why not be on the side of God.” Wilt contended it is a freedom of religion and freedom of speech issue.

Several citizens arrived early to the meeting and stood, hand-in-hand, on the courtyard green and prayed.

posted 11.13.2013

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