A Maryland county is back in court to ensure that its governing body is permanently allowed to pray as they see fit to open their meetings.
Commissioners in Carroll County are seeking a summary judgment to allow what federal judge William Quarles called “sectarian prayers” when he issued an injunction against such prayers in March.
A Supreme Court ruling allowing the prayer at public meetings technically overturned Quarles’ injunction, but Carroll County Commissioner Robin Frazier says the county is pursuing the summary judgment order because they’re not content with the court simply overturning the injunction. She says there is a bigger issue at stake.
“It’s not just about me,” Frazier said. “This is about all of our citizens and the freedom that they should have to speak and to have freedom of religion.”
Religious liberty law firm Liberty Institute Chief Counsel Jeff Mateer says Carroll County is actively pursuing the action because “[A summary judgment] would allow them to continue with praying before their meetings without government censorship.”
Mateer says even if the county is successful, the court’s ruling would have only a limited impact.
“The Court’s decision would only be precedent in that District Court in Maryland – although could be used a persuasive authority in other jurisdictions,” Mateer said.
American Center for Law and Justice Senior Counsel David French says that any effort by the federal government to regulate prayer is wrong.
“The prayers offered by the County Commissioner are constitutionally protected, and this most recent Supreme Court decision underscores the fact that a federal court should not be dictating the content of prayers at public meetings,” French said.
Frazier says comments made by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., at a news conference reveal the government’s attitude about faith and are further reason for her county to pursue the summary judgment. Schumer specifically commented about the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which recognized the Christian corporation maintains certain religious rights. The senator, however, insisted religion is personal and its freedoms are not extended to companies.
“You’re born with a religion or you adopt a religion. You have to obey the precepts of that religion, and the government gives you a wide penumbra – you don’t have to form a corporation,” Schumer said.
Although Schumer’s comments were in relation to the recent Hobby Lobby decision, Frazier believes the whole country was “founded upon religious principles.”
“If you look at what all of our Founding Fathers said, that without having our values come from truth, which comes from the Bible, that we wouldn’t be able to have a country like America,” Frazier said. “Those biblical principles balance capitalism, free markets and the ability to be free. That value system will help us to do the right thing. We have the inalienable rights that come from God, and they’re in order – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Life is first because you don’t have the right to kill someone to pursue your happiness,” Frazier continued. “It’s an amazing document, our Constitution. It is prayerfully and divinely put together. It is so wise. To have this value system in order to be successful is what makes America what it is.”
Frazier also says she feels strongly enough about the issue that she would be willing to sacrifice to defend it.
“I feel strongly enough about this that if I have to go to jail, I have to go to jail. Somebody needs to start taking a stand. I believe we’re losing our country because people are afraid to take a stand,” Frazier said. “I believe our country is based on having our rights come from God. We keep pushing God out of the picture. It won’t be America if we don’t recognize that our rights come from God.”
Frazier has some words for other public officials around the country who are fighting the same battle.
“It’s time for everyone to take a stand. It’s time to stand up and say we are one nation under God. We still have ‘In God we trust,’ on our money. We are a nation built upon biblical principles, and we need to stand up and say so!” Frazier said.