McCrory says he would continue prayers if asked to stop

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory said Tuesday he would continue sectarian prayer at government meetings if asked to stop.
McCrory, a Republican, spent time in Rowan County on Tuesday and spoke at a meeting of the Salisbury Rotary Club. He addressed the issue of prayer during a question and answer session at the end.
McCrory said religion-specific prayers were given at Charlotte City Council meetings while he was the city’s mayor.
“I had a person of Jewish faith and Muslim faith on my board,” he said. “We had Muslim prayers, we had people of the Jewish faith give prayers, and I (as a person) of the Christian faith gave prayers. We were respectful of each other.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina recently asked Rowan County Commissioners to stop opening meetings with sectarian prayer. The organization has said a future lawsuit is possible.
The ACLU also has questioned the practices of the N.C. General Assembly.
McCrory said some people warned that he would get in trouble, but the ACLU never challenged the Charlotte council’s actions.
“To me, it wasn’t just about faith. It was also about setting the tone of the meeting of respect and of grace,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
The Post sent an email to McCrory’s campaign asking if he would use tax dollars to defend the practice if a lawsuit is brought against the General Assembly.
Spokesman Brian Nick replied, “Yes he would support defending the right to pray.”
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McCrory opened his remarks at the Rotary meeting by greeting a number of familiar faces and saying, “I consider Salisbury to be my second home.”
The economy is going through a very tough time, he said, but there is hope. He said the key question is, “What lessons can be learned from the past?”
“The first lesson is that whether you’re an individual, a business or especially a government, you cannot live off a credit card,” he said. “Sooner or later, the bill has to be paid.”
He said North Carolina has millions of dollars’ worth of “unfunded liabilities” – like state employees’ unemployment insurance, health insurance and pension fund – that aren’t part of its balanced budget.
He said the state must do more with less, just like private businesses have been forced to do in the past few years.
“The second lesson is that we cannot live off the service industry,” McCrory said. “It’s not a sustainable economic model.”
He said the education system should accept two different paths to success – one curriculum that prepares students for enrollment in a four-year college, and another that begins their vocational and technical training.
McCrory also urged government leaders to “give advantages and help those industries that make things, build things, innovate things, produce things and grow things.”
During the question and answer session, RowanWorks Director Robert VanGeons asked what North Carolina can do to regain its competitiveness for business.
McCrory said he thinks the state needs to have a long-term economic development plan that actively supports existing businesses as well as new ones.
The third lesson to be learned, McCrory said, is that as long as the United States depends on unfriendly foreign countries for energy, “we are in trouble.”
“You are a hypocrite if you fill up your tank with gas from Venezuela, which uses offshore drilling… but you won’t do it here,” McCrory said.
He said the country needs to explore domestic sources of fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal, along with alternative energy like wind, solar and nuclear power.
So far, McCrory is the only Republican candidate who has filed to run for governor. Three Democrats have filed to run in a primary vacated by Gov. Bev Perdue, who is not running for re-election.
Other announced candidates on both sides have not yet officially filed.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
Facebook: Karissa.SalisburyPost