Editorial: Board finds a way to pray
County commissioners took the wiser course Monday in deciding not to defy an injunction barring them from opening meetings with sectarian prayer pending the outcome of a lawsuit.
Although Commissioner Jon Barber had said before the meeting that he would continue to pray “in Jesus’ name,” board members found a way around the injunction that apparently satisfies the court as well as their individual consciences. When it was time to pray, Barber made a motion that the board recess, and members briefly left the chambers, then returned and took up their regular business.
It was a simple solution — and far preferable to defying the court order and, presumably, incurring a contempt-of-court citation and even possible arrest. Passions run high enough on this issue, which arose when the ACLU, acting on behalf of three local residents, filed suit against the board’s largely sectarian opening prayers. What’s needed is leadership that can help defuse and contain the controversy until there’s a definitive ruling, which could be years away.
In opening comments, Chairman Jim Sides said that the board disagreed with the injunction and believed it to be unconstitutional — but as duly elected officials, they would abide by the judge’s ruling. He further explained that commissioners would either use prayer language they believed acceptable, based on previous court cases, or would ask for a brief recess, as Barber did.
While the county apparently remains committed to a legal battle it is likely to lose, commissioners have at least reached a temporary accomodation on prayer that will help avoid further distractions. More importantly, it acknowledges their responsibility to obey a court order, even if they don’t agree with it.