Maryland county official: I’ll ‘go to jail’ for right to open meetings with Christian prayer
A county official in Carroll County, MD is defiant in the face of a federal judge’s order that she and other public employees stop invoking Jesus Christ in their morning meetings. According to the Baltimore Sun, Commissioner Robin Frazier opened Thursday morning’s meeting with a prayer that twice mentioned Christ by name.
The preliminary injunction prohibits the practice of beginning county commission meetings with a group Christian prayer. Frazier said to the Sun, however, that the ruling “is an infringement on my First Amendment rights of free speech and I think it is a wrong ruling.”
“If we cease to believe that our rights come from God, we cease to be America,” she explained, adding that she is “willing to go to jail” over the issue.
The American Humanist Association reported on Wednesday that Judge William D. Quarels, Jr. of the U.S. District Court of Maryland issued the injunction against Carroll County officials.
The ruling came after a contentious battle between the county and residents who believe that the invocation of Jesus at public meetings is a violation of Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates the separation of church and state.
Monica Miller, an attorney for the AHA, said in a statement that these types of public prayer rituals create an environment that is hostile to Jews, atheists, Muslims and people of other faiths. “Non-Christians, who are necessarily excluded by such sectarian Christian prayers, feel like religious outsiders and second-class citizens in their own community.”
On Thursday morning, Frazier said, “This might be a good opportunity to demonstrate how our founding fathers, and leaders all throughout our history, have upheld the idea that we are a nation based on biblical principles. We’re one nation under God and I believe that’s where our unalienable rights come from.”
She then began to recite a prayer from the personal prayer journal of President George Washington that begins, “O Lord our God, most mighty and merciful father, I thine unworthy creature and servant, do once more approach thy presence. Though not worthy to appear before thee because of my natural corruptions, and the many sins and transgressions which I have committed against thy divine majesty…”
Neil Ridgely, a plaintiff in the case, told the Sun that Frazier is violating the responsibilities of her position.
“She’s put her personal beliefs before her responsibilities as a county official, insulted the judge, and every Carroll citizen who dares to have a religious belief that is different than her own,” he said.
Fellow plaintiff Bruce Hake said Frazier’s stubbornness was no surprise.
“This is exactly what I was expecting,” said Hake. “The commissioners obviously don’t understand what this ruling was about.”
[image of people praying together via Shutterstock.com]