Maryland county commissioner defies court, opens meeting with prayer

Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:57pm EDT

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(Reuters) - A county official in Maryland opened an official meeting on Thursday with a prayer referencing Jesus Christ, according to a person who attended the meeting and local media, two days after a federal judge issued an injunction prohibiting such a prayer.

Carroll County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier began the group's budget meeting with a prayer she says was written by George Washington, the first U.S. president, that referenced Jesus Christ at least three times.

The budget meeting came two days after a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the county commissioners from using "the name of a specific deity associated with any specific faith or belief."

The injunction was in response to a civil lawsuit filed last May on behalf of several Carroll county residents and the American Humanist Association, which claimed the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which provides for a separation of church and state. Opening official government meetings with non-sectarian prayers is legal.

Bruce Hake, a New Windsor, Maryland, immigration attorney and Roman Catholic who is one of the plaintiffs, attended Thursday's meeting.

"Commissioner Frazier spoke at length in brazen defiance of the federal judge's order," Hake said.

Frazier expressed a willingness to go to jail to fight the injunction, local media reported.

Frazier did not return calls seeking comment.

The legal arm of the American Humanist Association sent a letter of protest and warned they would ask the judge to find Frazier in contempt of court if she repeated the prayer.

"Government meetings are not a platform for government officials to promote their religious views," wrote Monica Miller, an attorney for the group. "We appreciate the commissioners' individual religious freedom ... we simply ask that they refrain from using the apparatus of government as a platform for their personal, sectarian religious views."

(Reporting by Jeffrey B. Roth in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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Comments (7)
REnninga wrote:
By extension, from her action in defiance of a court order Carroll County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier seems to suggest there should be no separation between Church and state (in contradiction of the United States Constitution). It should, therefore, be perfectly acceptable for the Carroll County Commission to henceforth conduct its meetings on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary of Commissioner Bartlett Frazier’s church, rather than church services.

Surely she wouldn’t have a problem with conducting secular, county business rather than worship services in her church, right? I mean, you don’t get to have it both ways, right?

Were any county commissioner to pull this sort of self-absorbed “stunt” in the county where I live I would work tirelessly, 7 days a week for that commissioner’s recall from public office. And I’m a Christian!

Mar 27, 2014 4:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
PS. The commissioner should be arrested and jailed for “Contempt of Court” for her action.

Mar 27, 2014 4:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RussDD wrote:
Show me this part of the constitution about the separation of church and state. I happen to be an atheist who recognizes that this country was founded on a platform of christian values. While I don’t share the faith I do support the morality and social structure.

Mar 27, 2014 5:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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