Commissioners reinstate prayer

Published 11:26 pm Friday, November 19, 2010

JACKSON — Prayer is back.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners voted to reinstate prayer at the beginning of their meetings.

At a previous meeting, the commissioners voted to remove prayer from their meetings in light of Judge James A. Beaty Jr. of U.S. District Court ruling prayer held before Forsyth County government meetings unconstitutional.  

On November 1, Commission Vice Chair James Hester, who is also a Reverend, expressed his desire to reinstate prayer at the beginning of the governing entity’s meetings. County Attorney Charles Vaughan was asked to study the matter and bring back his findings.  

“I don’t want to rehash what was said at the last meeting,” said Hester on Monday to his colleagues. “I’ve had a lot of calls from citizens not only in this county, but from other counties, telling me that their boards have prayer with no problem.”

Hester said he didn’t think the board ever had anyone in the audience that was opposed to public prayer.

“In fact, I would be in favor of the Chairwoman asking before anyone on the board prayed, if someone in the audience would like to pray for this board to make the decisions that need to be made,” he said. 

Hester said if no one spoke up, then one of the commissioners would offer prayer.

 “I’d like to make a motion that we reinstate the prayer for our commissioners, our county and for our state and for our country,” he said.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch offered a second.

Before board members offered a vote, there was more discussion.

The motion passed in a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Virginia Spruill absent from the meeting.

After the vote, Vaughan asked if he could make a statement.

“I too support prayer. I have ministers in my family’s history for 200 years and we always prayed, before meals, church, bedtime,” he said. “But we also need to be governed by our court system. You can’t just turn a blind eye to court rulings, which has told us we cannot engage in sectarian prayer, prayers that would tend to establish a particular religion.”

He noted the board can engage in nonsectarian prayer, which does not tend to support or promote a particular religion or group.

Vaughan said he had memorandum prepared for the commissioners along with sample prayers as used by the U.S. Congress.

“I would like to present them to you at an appropriate time to give you an example of what our Congress has found to be legal,” he said.

“Thank you for that suggestion and I think we would be open to taking a look at that,” said Commission Chair Fannie Greene.