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County Commissioners Implement Prayer at Meetings, Offend Some Constituents

At a speaking engagement on Monday, a citizen questioned the idea of opening the County Commissioner meetings with prayer.

An item on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners’ 10 Governing Philosophies has gotten the attention of some in the community, but probably not in the way the commissioners intended.

Upon being sworn into office 100 days ago, the board unveiled its 10 philosophies, including decreasing the size of government, setting term limits and lowering property taxes. No. 6 was probably among the easiest to implement, and the commissioners did so immediately. It reads: “Affirmation of Our Values: This Board of County Commissioners will open its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a prayer."

But the action has drawn harsh reaction from some citizens, and board members said Monday they will draw up a formal policy in response to community complaints.

Commissioner Doug Howard said at a speaking engagement at the South Carroll Senior Center that the board is proud to have instituted the pledge and prayer at the beginning of meetings.

But later, a citizen at the meeting questioned the idea, saying it would inherently exclude some residents. The citizen suggested having prayers for different faiths.

"We have to think about what's practical,” responded Howard. “We don't want anyone to be excluded. It [prayers] was intended as a positive thing." 

Howard said the wording of the prayer varies because the task of saying it is rotated among the commissioners. But he conceded that the board needed a formal policy on the issue to address citizen concerns.

"In the next week or so we will discuss and issue a written policy on the issue of prayers," Howard said.

Westminster resident David Grand wrote a letter to the editor, published in the Carroll County Times earlier this month, objecting to the prayer idea, saying it was unconstitutional and reversed the position of an earlier board that “commissioners’ meetings are not the place to publicly promote religious beliefs through prayers."

In a letter published in the same newspaper on March 15, Bruce Hake of Union Bridge wrote, "It's good to see recent letters criticizing the Board of Commissioners for using explicitly sectarian prayers in public meetings. That is plainly unconstitutional and un-American. It's also un-Christian. Jesus Himself said that only hypocrites ostentatiously pray in public. (Matt. 6:5-7). As a religious Catholic, I'm in favor of prayer. But I'm opposed to the illegal and disingenuous prayers now being employed by the county's leaders. To any Christians reading this, just think how you'd feel if the commissioners were praying from the Koran at public meetings."

But another citizen at Monday’s meeting said he was "impressed that the commissioners had the guts to implement the prayer in this climate we live in today." 

Lisa March 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM
To those who are offended sorry-but not to allow someone to pray (regardless of where it is or how it is done or to whom the prayer is lifted) I find offensive- so there, we are all offended- that makes us equally offended!
Lisa March 28, 2011 at 05:53 PM
But isn't that telling someone how they should pray and to whom or not to whom as the case may be? Isn't that forcing someone to believe something that others believe? Isn't that unconstitutional? I personally don't understand a non-denominational prayer-that is like praying to a cardboard box. If someone is of the Islamic faith and wishes to pray a prayer from the Qu'ran (or Koran) that should be allowed. Same for Catholic praying a rosary, or a Buddist praying their beads, or a Wiccan lifting a prayer to the Mother Godess and Father God. Again I don't have to agree with it but no one under the constitution of the United States should be bullied into saying or not saying a prayer or being told how they should pray. This should also include our leaders.
David J Iacono June 10, 2011 at 06:46 PM
The Constitutional law is clear on this. See my letter to the editor on Thursday, June 2. Non-sectarian prayer is fine. Sectarian prayer is not.
carrollmd June 23, 2011 at 03:09 AM
I hope the commissioners all do pray if they are inclined to do so, but on their own time, not on my dime at public meetings where I expect them to do business in the best interest of, and represent ALL their constituents -whether we pray or not. This, and the recent resolution favoring heterosexual marriage (good grief!) leads me to believe this is yet another bit of showmanship for election campaign fundraising time, to show "the base" what good, pious folk they are: Guns, God, and Gays become hot topics. If they insist, the prayer should be non-sectarian. However, I'd rather see some good works ...
aveteran December 13, 2012 at 10:09 PM
They aren't elected as pastors or to pray, they're elected to take care of GOVERNMENT business.

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