Rowan Co. Commissioners pray before meeting despite ACLU letter

Prayer in public meetings

SALISBURY, N.C.,None — In what the American Civil Liberties Union will likely perceive as an act of defiance, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners began its Monday night meeting with a prayer.

The Commission had received notice from the ACLU to discontinue prayer at meetings in light of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that prayer at Forsyth County, NC, meetings was unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ruling.

"We prayed like we normally pray," said Rowan County Commission Chairman Chad Mitchell.

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"At the moment, we're not under a court order. We only have a request from the ACLU. At the moment, we don't plan on changing the way we're doing things," Mitchell said.

Several hundred people packed the meeting room and the first-floor lobby of the Rowan County Government Building. Most of the people, who came from churches all over the county, sang in prayer, chanted and called for the commission to stand firm against opposition to prayer at meetings.

"They're trying to take (prayer) away from us," said David Coon, who showed up to pray in the lobby.

"They're trying to take Jesus out of government and out of Rowan County. We're here protesting it," Coon said.

While unsure of the ACLU's next move, Chairman Mitchell told us he doesn't want a prolonged battle.

"Whether (the Forsyth) ruling applies to Rowan County or not, that will be an issue for the courts. At that point and time, this commission will have to make a decision as to whether to comply," said Mitchell.