Prayer ruling won’t affect Rowan County litigation

Officials across the Charlotte region said they were pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday on prayer during government meetings.

The court ruled that it was constitutional for the town of Greece, N.Y., to start public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian.

But the ruling won’t have an immediate impact on pending litigation over prayer before Rowan County commissioner meetings, both sides agreed.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered county commissioners to stop opening meetings with sectarian prayer after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the board.

Rowan County Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides said he’s pleased with the ruling, but that it has “no effect on what is taking place in Rowan County.”

“We’re sort of in a holding pattern waiting to see what happens,” he said.

The ACLU of North Carolina released a statement Monday saying it disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling. But it pointed out differences between the prayers in Greece and those that happened in Rowan County.

“In the Town of Greece, the prayers were delivered by invited clergy, but in Rowan County, the prayers are composed and delivered by government officials themselves, reinforcing the impression that the government is favoring certain religious views over others,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, who is representing the plaintiffs in the Rowan County case.

Other local government officials said that they were happy with the decision.

“If a person gets elected and feels comfortable in saying a prayer, they should be able to say whatever kind of prayer they want to say, Christian or not,” said Gaston County Commissioner Mickey Price, who noted that board has an invocation.