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Commissioners answer ACLU with prayer

SALISBURY — Rowan County commissioners answered a lawsuit from the ACLU tonight by opening a public meeting with a prayer that included the words “personal lord and savior.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against Rowan County last week, accusing county commissioners of violating the First Amendment by beginning meetings with sectarian prayer.

Commissioners Vice Chairman Craig Pierce began the 6 p.m. meeting by praying for “intelligence, wisdom and courage” and ended the prayer to his “personal lord and savior.”

Chairman Jim Sides asked Bryce Neier, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, to speak before the public comment period. Neier worked with Forsyth County when it was sued over prayer during public meetings.

Neier encouraged commissioners to stand up to the ACLU, saying their personal rights don’t get checked when they walk into a county commission meeting.

“It’s not a hopeless battle,” he said.

He advised them that sometimes you have to fight the good fight.

The ACLU brought the action more than a year after Rowan commissioners thumbed their noses at a warning letter authored by the civil rights organization. That letter asked board members to cease and desist prayer that favored one religion, which it said was unconstitutional.

Three Rowan County residents — Nan Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Bob Voelker — are listed as plaintiffs in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro.

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