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Posted: 6:26 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, 2013
By Tina Terry
ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. —
A new lawsuit wants Rowan County commissioners to stop saying only Christian prayers before their meetings. Eyewitness News spoke Wednesday to the Rowan County residents behind the lawsuit. The three residents said they've attended Rowan County Commission meetings for years, but they said Christian invocations, given by some commissioners, have made them feel excluded. "I think a lot of people don't go because they don't feel comfortable at the meeting," said plaintiff Nancy Lund. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to commissioners asking them to stop sectarian prayer, but they said the county never responded. "The message that it sends is that the Rowan County Commission meetings are only open to one portion of the community," said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU North Carolina. Citizens and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the county's actions violate the United States and North Carolina constitutions. They also want an injunction ordering the commission to stop delivering sectarian prayers at meetings. The lawsuit also asks the county to pay the plaintiff's legal fees. The ACLU said a similar case cost about $200,000 in fees. Wednesday, Rowan County leaders couldn't say if they'd fight it. "We have spoken with our county attorney. Under his advisement we are making no comment at this time," said County Commission Chairman Jim Sides. Commissioner Mike Caskey told us his decision to pray Christian prayers has been more about his personal beliefs and not his public office. "I think anyone who's elected has the right to pray or not pray or pray to whoever they want," he said. Commissioners said they would have a meeting Monday night with the county attorney to determine how to respond.
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