A man has challenged the Alexander County Board of Commissioners on religious freedom and tolerance.
At the Monday, July 17th Meeting, Frank Lopez spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Lopez says he asked to deliver the invocation at the Board meeting on June 19th. Lopez was informed that it is practice for a Commissioner to deliver the invocation.
Lopez said he visited the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office on May 10 and noticed two Bibles in the lobby. He returned on June 8th and placed a copy of the Islamic Koran, a Jewish Torah, and a book on Buddhism. Lopez says the books he placed along with the Bibles have been removed. Lopez suggested to the Board that all County employees be trained on religious tolerance.
County Sheriff Chris Bowman says the books were removed on the advice of Sheriff’s Office council. Bowman says the Bibles had been in the lobby since the Law Enforcement Center opened.
County Manager Rick French said Wednesday that the matter is being reviewed by the County attorney at this time. The Bibles and books placed by Mr Lopez are not presently in the lobby according to French.
* On July 15th The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that the Rowan County (NC) Commission’s practice of opening its meetings with exclusively Christian prayers, led only by the lawmakers themselves, violates the U.S. Constitution. A 3-judge panel of the 4th Circuit previously reached the opposite conclusion, but now on appeal to the full appeals court, the plaintiffs prevailed, 10-5.
This case (Lund v. Rowan County) is one of the first major tests of the meaning and limits of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent legislative prayer ruling, which upheld a prayer practice in Town of Greece v. Galloway (2014). In finding the Rowan County Commission’s invocation practice unconstitutional, the Fourth Circuit emphasized key differences from the Town of Greece case. Most importantly, as opposed to the prayers given by community clergy in Town of Greece, in Rowan County, the commissioners themselves, and only the commissioners, delivered the invocations.