Even though a North Carolina school board recently did the right thing when it voted to open its meetings with a moment of silence, some residents are demanding that the board put “God back in our school.”
The Cleveland County Schools Board of Education voted 8-2 not long ago to maintain its current practice of beginning meetings with a moment of silence rather than adopting a new prayer policy. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do since silence harms no one. If someone wants to pray at that time, they may.
The Pittsylvania County, Va., Board of Supervisors is weighing its options after a federal court ruled it must discontinue its prayer practice. According to CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV, supervisors traditionally delivered prayers themselves at public meetings. Because the supervisors each identify as Christian, the prayers subsequently contained exclusively Christian content.
A federal court ruled that this practice violates the First Amendment. The ruling makes it clear that the board may hold prayers, but it must implement a more inclusive policy.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Town of Greece v. Galloway that communities may open their official meetings with prayer – as long as they strive to be inclusive.
It seems that Lincoln County, N.C., Commissioner Carroll Mitchem didn’t get that memo.
Mitchem, who identifies as Christian, announced recently that non-Christians, especially Muslims, would not be permitted to deliver prayers or invocations at county commission meetings.
When it comes to religion in America, the majority is most certainly not permitted to rule. Apparently an official in a North Carolina county is unaware of this fact, as evidenced by his recent claim that non-Christians should be banned from giving prayers before local government meetings.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Greece v. Galloway, it seemed there would be little hope of stopping local governments from opening their meetings with predominantly Christian prayers.
It’s the time of year to review the events of the past 12 months, determine who’s hot and who’s not, what’s in and what’s out, etc.
With that thought in mind, here are what we at the “Wall of Separation” believe to be the Top Ten Church-State Stories of 2014:
Governments – particularly those of the local variety – are supposed to be inclusive toward all citizens they serve. But some members of a Florida city council are clearly unaware of this responsibility, since they felt it was appropriate to walk out of a recent meeting right before an atheist was to deliver a message.
A city councilman in Washington state has a stance on pre-meeting prayers that is too extreme for even some staunch Religious Right allies to accept.
John Trumbo of the Kennewick City Council recently suggested that council meetings ought to open with an invocation “directed in name and reference to the same God addressed in the Founding Fathers’ signatory documents that established this nation,” the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald reported.
The Town Board of Greece, N.Y., has issued its formal policy on pre-meeting prayers, leading to a combination of confusion and backlash.
Almost four months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that while communities are free to open their meetings with predominantly Christian prayers, they may not exclude other points of view.