By Joseph L. Conn
Americans United and the ACLU recently won a court case barring the Forsyth County, N.C., Board of Commissioners from opening its meeting with sectarian prayers. Now other local governments in North Carolina are complying with the ruling, and some people are (literally) up in arms about it.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that “[f]aith is as deeply important as it is deeply personal and the government should not appear to suggest that some faiths have it wrong and others got it right.”
A few North Carolina residents apparently don’t see it that way.
The Craven County Board of Commissioners decided to comply with the Constitution and the court ruling and discontinue official prayers before its meetings. According to the New Bern Sun Journal, angry citizens came to a commissioners’ meeting Monday night to complain about the decision.
Ray Griffin told the board, “Those who ban prayer ban themselves from heaven. … Today America is in decline because we don’t accept that.”
Pat Gallo was even more intemperate, saying his wife asked him “to come down here and set you boys straight.”
Warning that the issue “is something that is not going to go away,” Gallo said, “You may need to get a gun; you’re going to need it for protection. There’s a group of Christians out here who believe in Christ…. What’s it going to be? Are you going to put your tail between your legs and pee in your pants? If your attorney doesn’t have the guts, get a new one.”
It’s a little unclear where Mr. Gallo was going with his remarks. But whatever his destination, let’s just say he’s way out of line. There’s quite enough violence over religion around the world, and we don’t need any of that kind of stuff in the United States.
And not to go all preachy on you, Mr. Gallo, but didn’t Jesus say to pray in private, not in the street corners just to make a big show of your piety? Somehow I can’t imagine Jesus reaching for a Smith & Wesson because the Craven County Board of Commissioners has decided to obey the Constitution.
Nobody has banned prayer in America. The federal courts certainly didn’t do so in their ruling in the Forsyth case. All they did was hold that government can’t favor one faith over others.
One Craven County resident made that point at Monday’s meeting.
According to the local newspaper, Hal James of the Coastal Taxpayers Coalition, said, “I hate to agree with the ACLU on anything but I’m afraid on this I have to.”
The decision, he said, is consistent with the founding fathers’ statements on religious freedom.
The Craven County Board of Commissioners was wise to comply with the law. It means taxpayers in the community won’t have to waste their hard-earned money on a lawsuit that the board was sure to lose.