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County faces ‘unconstitutional’ prayer lawsuit

Published 7:46am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

NC News Service

SALISBURY – Rowan County is facing a lawsuit as a result of county commissioners’ decision to include a prayer at their public meetings that the plaintiffs say is unconstitutional.

The ACLU and some county residents filed the suit, claiming that county leadership ignored a reminder that the decision to hold prayer specific to one religion violates the U.S. Constitution.

“I really support freedom of religion, but the issue is when it’s government officials opening a public meeting,” said Nancy Lund, one of the plaintiffs. “It’s very uncomfortable. It feels like I’m very unwelcome.”

The suit alleges that some prayers conducted at Rowan County meetings include declarations that “there is only one way to salvation.”

Chris Brook, ACLU legal director, said the prayer issue goes beyond making some citizens uneasy.

“It’s not just a matter of being made to feel uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s also a matter of the government excluding members of the community.”

Lund said she has attended county commission meetings since 2004.

A 2011 ruling by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals against Forsyth County found that local boards may not open their meetings with a prayer that is specific to one religion. After the ruling that Forsyth County could no longer hold religion-specific prayer, more than 20 local governments in North Carolina changed their opening invocations to comply with the law. Rowan County did not.

One Rowan County commissioner has said the county and the ACLU have “different interpretations of the First Amendment.”

The lawsuit, Lund et al v. RowanCounty, was filed March 12 and is online at

In the Roanoke-Chowan area, each of the four boards of county commissioners open their meetings with prayer.

  • lemonshirt

    Just because I sing “Take me out to the Ball Game” at a baseball game doesn’t mean I’m forcing anyone to eat peanuts and Crackerjacks against their will.

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  • chiweee1

    I didn’t read anywhere that it showed any kind of dicrimation. We all need prayers. There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus. One thing wrong with America is there is not enough prayers to Let God help us

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  • cherokee

    This is just as silly as the McDonald’s lawsuit over hot coffee that started all this stupid waste of courts times and monies. If you want to pray I don’t give a care who you are praying too, it is your GOD given right and no court in this land or on this earth will stop a true religious person. Take a min to think that as long as someone is praying to a higher power to be a better person, that is what I believe it is all about. If I want to say a prayer to my Lord before a meal or whatever ….if you want to pray to yours that is fine with me but do not think for one second I will stop beacuse of some stupid lawsuit!!

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  • skippy1975

    A law suit against praying a commissioners’ meeting? Are you kidding. There’s nothig wrong about having prayers at a meeting like this. We have those at all meetings,and we even have “Pledge Alengce of the Flag”. Please excuse my spelling.

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  • Riverboat

    Here we go again. God or no God. My right vs your right. Prayer or no Prayer. Something to think about for those of you that want separation between God and everything. IN GOD WE TRUST is on every piece of United States currency. If you have no need for God. No trust in God. If there is no God. If the talk of God in some form or fashion makes you “uncomfortable and gives you a feeling of being unwelcome” as the article says I have a PO box you can sent all that dirty money that has his name on it and belongs to God anyway.

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