Lincoln County commissioners voted to end religious invocations before their meetings after the chairman walked out while a man opened with a Muslim prayer.
Chairman Carrol Mitchem left the meeting after the leader of an interfaith group began to open the meeting, according to the Lincoln Times-News. The commissioners then scrapped their recent policy of allowing members of any faith to give the invocation. They’ll now open with a moment of silence instead.
Local government boards have long opened meetings with a religious invocation. In recent years, counties that have regularly opened with Christian prayer have been forced to revisit their practices. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that the practice of opening meetings in nearby Rowan County with only Christian prayers violated the U.S. Constitution. The county is appealing the ruling.
Mitchem, the Lincoln County chairman, had said in interviews in the weeks prior that only Christian prayers would be welcome at his meetings.
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“I ain’t gonna have no new religion or pray to Allah or nothing like that,” Mitchem told WBTV, saying that anyone opposed to Christian prayer can “wait until we’re done praying.”
To avoid legal trouble, the Lincoln board quickly adopted a policy that all faiths are welcome to open the meeting in prayer. That is now no longer in effect.
Observer news partner WBTV contributed.