• Legal battle over sectarian prayer in meetings could be costly

    By: Dan Tordjman

    Updated:

    SALISBURY, N.C.,None - Rowan County commissioners remained resolute in their decision to continue praying before meetings Monday night. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union told Eyewitness News it hoped the prayer would stop soon.

    "If they (stop), then we wouldn't proceed in any way," said Katy Parker, at the ACLU's North Carolina office. "I hope that they, taxpayers, are aware of the litigation costs that come from taking a stand like this."

    This type of legal battle could cost Rowan County hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to overturn a ruling, which found that sectarian prayer at meetings in Forsyth County, N.C., was unconstitutional.

    Eyewitness News called Forsyth County and found out that five years worth of attorneys’ fees in its losing battle against the ACLU to keep prayer in meetings was covered by a nonprofit group called the Alliance Defense Fund.

    The ADF would not specify how much money that would have cost Forsyth County. Another nonprofit will also cover up to $300,000 in costs and damages, which could be awarded to the ACLU in the Forsyth case.

    Although there's no guarantee that those nonprofits would be able to protect Rowan the same way, Commissioner Jim Sides said he isn't worried.

    "Doesn't scare me," Sides said. "I've had taxpayers tell me, 'If you want to raise taxes a nickel to fight this,’ -- that's $5 million in revenue -- they said, 'Go ahead.' We will fight it. We're not running from a fight."

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