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."