ACLU responds to Rowan Commissioners meeting | Politics
SALISBURY - They defended a Christian's right to speak in a public park in Tennessee, fought for a Christian student's right to give an anti abortion speech at a public school in Virginia, and supported a Florida Christian who wore an anti-Islam tee shirt to a public school.
"They" are the ACLU.
Even so, the group is under fire from some Christians in Rowan County for its stand against prayers offered in the name of Jesus at Rowan County Commission meetings.
"Heavenly Father," Chairman Chad Mitchell opened the meeting. "I thank you for the opportunity you've given us to come together and work on business of Rowan County. On this President's Day I ask for your wisdom and grace for your elected representatives and those in authority and I ask for your guiding hand in our deliberations and decisions, in Jesus name I pray, amen."
That prayer, and the amen that closed it, was echoed by many in the packed meeting room.
Hundreds turned out for the Monday night meeting where the issue was discussed during the public comments section.
"The name of Jesus turns men away because they do not understand the grace and the love of God," said one woman. "Do you want to us but we will not back down on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His name is Jesus and by God's grace, I'll keep calling him Jesus, what about you guys?," offered one man.
There is one voice in dissent to the majority.
"This is like a revival and it's not supposed to be when public business is being discussed," the speaker said. "I don't have confidence that you commissioners represent me and my best interest when you make public decisions and public policy.
I ask for the respect of you guys not using public meetings to advance and promote your religion, because that's what it seems to be."
That speaker told WBTV today that he was so intimidated by those in attendance, that he preferred his name not be used in this story.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the ACLU did respond to a request from WBTV to answer a few questions.
Katy Parker, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina told WBTV that the ACLU had gotten four complaints from citizens who objected to the sectarian prayer. She said that since the controversy became public, there had been "a few more."
Parker also told WBTV that the ACLU is hoping that "cooler heads will prevail," and that the commission will "follow the law" and stop offering the prayer in the name of Jesus.
Parkers says the ACLU is standing up for Rowan County residents who are not in the religious majority.
"What really gets lost by the press, the media, is how it feels to be a religious minority in these cities and counties, and there a lot of religious minorities in Rowan County," Parker said. "Religious minorities are being excluded by their own government."
The ACLU has given the board until March 5 to come up with a new plan of action. Parker says litigation is possible. "We did litigate this matter in Forsyth County, we hope we won't have to do that here." Parker pointed out that the Forsyth County suit, in which the court sided with the ACLU, lasted for around five years and cost the county roughly $200,000. And Rowan County, she said, "is clearly in violation."
The ACLU also provided this link that highlights cases where it defended the rights of Christians: