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Oct 28 2005
SC Prayer Pandemic

School board OKs prayers at meetings

Associated Press

BEAUFORT - The Beaufort County school board has voted unanimously to add a prayer to its meetings, 10 years after it replaced invocations with a moment of silence.

The contents of the prayer or who will lead it was not determined at Tuesday's vote.

Stu Rodman said he was surprised when he joined the board that they did not open their meetings with some kind of prayer.

"I do think it's appropriate to ask the Lord's blessing over a meeting," said Rodman, who suggested the change.

Rodman said he would support having the prayers led by a variety of religious leaders but will defer to Chairwoman Dale Friedman to come up with a plan.

Another idea would be having students who are learning about various religions lead the prayer, Friedman said.

"I don't have any objection as long as it represents the diversity of the religious community," Friedman said, adding that the law specifies that invocations during public meeting cannot exclude any religions.

The board is aware that other governments have been sued because their prayers singled out a specific deity, board member Richard Tritschler said.

Lawmaker names Jesus in prayer

Associated Press

ROCK HILL - City Councilman Jim Reno didn't let a legal battle stop him from ending a prayer at a Monday night meeting with "in Jesus' name," making Rock Hill's council at least the fourth public body in the state to mention Jesus before meetings.

Reno's comments come in the wake of Wiccan priestess Darla Wynn's lawsuit against the town of Great Falls over the matter. U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie ruled in Wynn's favor, issuing an order prohibiting the Town Council from using "the name of a specific deity in prayers" during meetings, a ruling upheld twice by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Alliance Defense Fund has offered to help Great Falls, as well as Anderson and Oconee counties, craft policies that comply with the rulings while still allowing prayer at meetings.

Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols said Monday that the council will continue to allow members to pray "as they see fit."

"I prayed like I normally pray," Reno said.

Councils offered help on prayers

Associated Press

COLUMBIA -- The Alliance Defense Fund has offered its legal expertise to a South Carolina city and two counties to help craft policies that allow prayers at council meetings while complying with a recent court ruling prohibiting using the name of a specific deity during those invocations.

"We're committed to assisting legislative bodies put prayer practices in place," said Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney with the defense fund. Tedesco said the councils haven't yet accepted his group's offer.

The move comes after letters were sent by the American Civil Liberties Union reminding local government councils that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unconstitutional prayers before council meetings that invoke a specific deity. Those rulings came after Wiccan priestess Darla Wynn sued the town of Great Falls for praying to Jesus Christ at the start of council meetings.

Tedesco said Monday his organization has contacted Anderson and Oconee counties as well as the city of Anderson.

Last week, the Rev. Bill Rinehart, an Oconee County councilman, delivered the invocation, ending his prayer for wisdom and guidance "in the name of Jesus."

At the beginning of the Anderson County Council meeting, Councilman Michael Thompson led the invocation and prayed "in the name of Jesus."

Anderson Mayor Richard Shirley opened a City Council meeting this month according to his custom of reading invocations of a former U.S. Senate chaplain. The prayer ended with the phrase, "Through Jesus Christ Our Lord."

Nov 4 2005
More Flaunting!

McMaster backs use of 'Jesus' in council prayers

Associated Press - Friday 11/04/2005

ANDERSON-State Attorney General Henry McMaster says he will take on the American Civil Liberties Union if the group takes a city or county council to court over prayers said before meetings.

McMaster wrote a letter to the Piedmont Chapter of the ACLU after the group wrote its own letters to the Oconee County Council and the Anderson and Seneca city councils in September, asking them to follow a federal court order to stop using the name of Jesus Christ in prayers.

"There is no federal or state law which tells people that they must pray or not pray in any particular way, as this would be in direct conflict with the express words of the United States and South Carolina constitutions guaranteeing the free exercise of religion," he wrote.

McMaster's letter was addressed to ACLU chapter president Mike Cubelo, who wrote back to the attorney general saying he is mixing up "government prayer issues with individual freedoms."

"This dispute has never been about an individual's right to pray as he chooses," Cubelo wrote. "The ACLU supports this right wholeheartedly ... Our dispute, however, is about government prayer which favors one religion or denomination over others."

McMaster said his office will support a council if the ACLU takes it to court. "The point is the ACLU's intent is to find fault with any prayer," McMaster said.

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