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Rowan board ignores ACLU, starts with prayer

Rowan County commissioners opened their meeting Monday night with a prayer, in spite of a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to cease the practice.

The commissioners' decision came in front of hundreds of people who attend the meeting, spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the Rowan County Government Building. Most of those people said they were opposed to the ACLU's request.

Many of those spectators broke into song and prayer inside the building, according to video aired by WSOC-TV.

The ACLU has sent letters to dozens of government bodies in North Carolina in recent weeks, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court decision that forbids Forsyth County commissioners from starting their meetings with a prayer that is specific to one religion. The ACLU told the Salisbury Post that Rowan County is the only organization to oppose the ACLU's position.

The ACLU has given Rowan and other counties until early March to comply.

During the "public comment" portion of Monday night's meeting, more than 20 Rowan County residents discussed the issue. All but one of them asked commissioners to continue starting meetings with prayer.

At least one commissioner told reporters Monday that he expects the ACLU-Rowan County disagreement to end in court.

WSOC-TV and the Salisbury Post contributed