County adopts prayer policy in case injunction is granted

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:31 a.m.

SALISBURY — Rowan County commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a prayer policy Monday that would keep prayer in county meetings if a federal judge were to issue an injunction.

But county leaders hope the policy isn’t enacted.

The measure would allow an approved chaplain to give invocations at the start of commissioners meetings. Rowan commissioners formulated the notice a little more than a month after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of three Rowan residents claiming the practice of commissioners opening meetings with sectarian prayer is unconstitutional.

The ACLU is seeking an injunction from a federal judge that would require commissioners to immediately halt those invocations.

“What it amounts to, by having this policy available to us if the injunction comes through, then this would still allow us to have prayer during our meetings because we do have the policy in effect,” Vice Chairman Craig Pierce said Wednesday.

The policy asks that the chaplain deliver a prayer that avoids having “sectarian references become too frequent and no invocation should proselytize or advance any faith or disparage the religious faith or non-religious views of others.”

The policy names Pastor Michael Taylor, a volunteer chaplain for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, as the initial chaplain and details how subsequent chaplains would be selected by a vote of the commissioners.

The prayer policy was added late as a consent agenda item in Monday’s meeting. The Post requested the policy Tuesday and it was forwarded to the Post Wednesday morning.

Members of the commission would not be able to give the invocation nor would they be involved in reviewing the invocation’s content, the policy said.

Pierce said the policy shouldn’t be looked at as a conciliatory move.

“I would rather have some type of ability to have prayer than to have nothing,” he said.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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