Delmarva Government Leaders Ponder Supreme Court Prayer Decision

May 6, 2014

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WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - The Carroll County Commissioners aren't yet resuming Christian prayer at their public meetings despite court action that apparently allows it.

Board President Dave Roush opened Tuesday's meeting in Westminster with a prayer to the "God of us all," a generic deity. Roush said the five commissioners will discuss the matter during their public meeting Thursday.

The board voted in April to suspend its practice of rotating opening prayers among the five commissioners, some of whom preferred prayers invoking Jesus Christ. The board's decision conformed with a court order in a lawsuit that is pending in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The judge lifted the preliminary injunction Monday, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court approved of Christian prayers said by clergy at public meetings in the town of Greece, New York.

The plaintiffs in the Maryland case say they won't be deterred.

Attorney David Niose of the American Humanist Association says the two cases are factually different.

The prayers that open the Greece town board meetings are said by local clergy members, whereas the prayers at Carroll County Commissioners meetings have been said by the commissioners, with some praying specifically to Jesus Christ.

Niose says that amounts to unconstitutional government speech favoring a specific religion.

Salisbury City Council

In Salisbury, the City Council members reacted cautiously but favorably to the Supreme Court decision.

The council has observed a moment of silence, after objections were raised to the recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the council sessions.

Council member Shanie Shields told WBOC that she would like to see prayer back at the council meetings.

Prayer was removed from the sessions to avoid potential lawsuits.

Council member Tim Spies told the television station that the council's efforts to abide by the food faith effort to include all faiths failed to attract enough clergy.

Meanwhile, Council President Jake Day told WBOC that he would like to see another attempt to bring prayer back to the Salisbury city meetings.

Sussex County

In Sussex County, officials are looking over the high court's decision.

The council had also begun its meetings with the Lord's Prayer, but ended the practice in a settlement of a lawsuit by four residents and Americans United for the Separation of Church And state.

Instead, the council has substituted in the 23rd Psalm.

Reacting to the court decision, council council member Samuel Wilson told the Wilmington News Journal that he thought this was good news may "not for the atheist but ...for the believer." 

But, Ayesha Khan, legal director for Americans United, todl the paper that she doubted the New York case will have any effect on the Sussex County Council case since a settlement was reached.

Finally at Indian River School Board meetings, individuals attending the meetings can offer up a prayer during the public comment period -- a result of an idea from Council member Wilson.