Anyway, here is another article on the last town council meeting, the prayer heard 'round the council chambers, and the ACLU.
I have invited the NC chapter of the ACLU to be on my talk show, but they have failed to respond with even a negative acknowledgment. Figures.
Prayer irks some in Selma
ACLU complaint prompts change in practice
By Jordan Cooke, Staff Reporter
SELMA -- On the subject of prayer, Mayor Charles Hester made a point to be more vocal than usual during a recent Town Council meeting.
Before calling the meeting to order, Hester joked with council members and town staff that they should prepare for a 15-minute prayer. While his invocation lasted only about half that time, the looks on the faces of those listening showed his action had an impact.
Hester, whose town is the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union complaint, took time to thank God for “freedom of religion to pray as we see fit without molestation from outside sources.”
“We go by the Holy Scriptures,” he said. “That is what we use for guidance in our daily lives.”
But not everyone seems to agree. In a letter dated March 21, ACLU lawyer Katherine Parker wrote to Town Attorney Chip Hewitt about a complaint she said had been filed against Selma.
Parker said a citizen had taken issue with how “the Selma Town Council frequently begins meetings with sectarian prayers invoking the name of Jesus Christ.”
She said such prayers would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and asked that Hewitt encourage the Town Council to adopt a policy of non-sectarian prayer.
The problem with that, said Town Clerk Fran Davis, was that Selma had never adopted a policy on prayer at its meetings.
Mayors in Selma had long maintained prayer as a matter of town business, but never adopted a policy regulating the practice, Davis said.
Hewitt said he thinks the ACLU took issue primarily with Selma’s practice of listing the invocation on their monthly agendas. At his urging, the Town Council recently agreed to remove prayer from its agendas and end a practice of asking Christian pastors to lead citizens in prayer.
The changes could be temporary, Hewitt added.
In the meantime, he and the Town Council are watching a lawsuit filed in Forsyth County that challenges that county’s policy on prayer.
Debra Conrad, vice-chairwoman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, thinks the ACLU might be barking up the wrong tree. Conrad said Forsyth already maintains a policy of non-sectarian prayer.
“We feel that our policy doesn’t violate any constitutional amendment,” Conrad said. “Our clerk randomly rotates through all religions. We’ve had clergy from Christian to Hindu to Scientologists.”
“And we don’t ever dictate what the clergy say,” she said. “It’s also my understanding that no court has ever dictated the actual content of prayer. You’re just not allowed to favor one religion over another. Since that’s not our policy, we feel we have a good chance of winning.”
Parker could not be reached for comment.
But should Forsyth lose its case, it could set a precedent requiring all towns and counties to exclude the name of Jesus Christ from prayers, Hewitt said.
Hester said he’s sure the ACLU would love nothing more. “By the end of this I’m sure they’re hoping we’ll all be hung up on our crosses,” he said.
Herald Staff Reporter Jordan Cooke can be reached at 934-2176, Ext. 124, or by e-mail at email@example.com