Pierce says he won’t change prayer at opening of Monday’s commissioners meeting

  • Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:59 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, March 14, 2013 1:06 a.m.
Craig Pierce
Craig Pierce

SALISBURY — Rowan Commission Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said he will deliver a Christian prayer at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, despite receiving notice of a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the county by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

Pierce told the Post his speech at county meetings is protected by the First Amendment and not a violation of civil rights as alleged by the ACLU.

“I’ve prayed all my life, I’m not going to change now,” Pierce said. “If I’m told by the courts that I can’t pray in session, then we’ll have to accommodate that ...”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court in Greensboro on Tuesday afternoon on behalf of three Rowan County residents — Nan Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Bob Voelker.

Pierce said he isn’t sure what to expect from the public at Monday’s meeting, noting that he was in attendance last March as dozens of supporters filled the county building with hymns and support.

“I understand this is a passionate issue for the citizens. We’re not calling for a crowd. We’re not asking people to come out,” Pierce said. “As long as the citizens feel it’s a need, then it’s more than welcome. I want them to show their support for any issue.”

All five commissioners have vowed to continue starting meetings with sectarian prayer. In the lawsuit, the ACLU seeks a preliminary injunction to immediately force commissioners to stop.

The three residents told the Post on Tuesday the prayers were offensive.

Montag-Seigel said she has attended several meetings and described the sectarian nature as “deliberately unwelcoming.”

Pierce said he sees the publicity and the lawsuit as part of a broader issue.

“The biggest thing here is I don’t think this is all about Rowan County,” he said. “This is a bigger movement and we just happen to be the target.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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