Christian references offend critics at Carroll County Commissioners meetings
7:59 PM, Jan 14, 2014
6:15 AM, Jan 15, 2014
WESTMINSTER, Md. -
You might expect to hear prayers in a church or at a memorial service, and in Carroll County, you'll hear them before every meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
"I might say, 'Lord, I ask you that you might give us guidance and wisdom that we may make good decisions for the people of our county. I offer this prayer in the name of my personal savior, Amen,'" said Commissioner Richard Rothschild. "Now my personal view of that... is that is not proselytizing."
But a pair of Carroll County citizens disagrees, and they filed a federal lawsuit to stop the practice.
One of them, Neil Ridgely, worked for the county for 15 years.
"Of course they have always had the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings, which is totally appropriate and perhaps even having some sort of prayer could be appropriate, but the fact that the prayer excluded so many people by invoking the name of Jesus Christ---that frankly upset me," Ridgely said.
Ridgely, a Democrat, says the board made up entirely of Republicans has a political agenda in delivering what he views as sectarian prayers and it violates the First Amendment as government favors one religion over another.
"As demagogues, they are playing to a certain constituency that they think will elect them again or elected them in the past," he said.
At issue is whether commissioners go too far including words like Jesus, Christ or Savior in their prayers, but Rothschild says any effort to choose his prayerful words for him violates his rights.
"One issue is the question of censorship, and if I tell you can pray, but then I tell you how to pray or force you to pray in such a way that it violates your conscience, have I really given you the right to pray?" Rothschild asked.
A similar case out of New York may decide this one when it reaches the Supreme Court.