According to a press release from the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the organization filed suit in 2005 on behalf of several Cobb County residents opposed to prayers that make reference to the deities of specific religions.
“Cobb County is a diverse county and citizens of all religions and non-religion should be welcome at government meetings,” said Maggie Garrett, an ACLU staff attorney who served as counsel in the case, in the release. “If the county chooses to begin its meetings with a legislative prayer, it should not show bias for one particular faith or another.”
The ACLU appealed after an injunction to stop the sectarian prayer was denied. The matter is currently being considered by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I have absolutely no problem with it,” said Spalding County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eddie Goss. “I think it goes back to the fact that this country was founded on Christian principles and for us to open our meetings with prayer is us simply asking God for wisdom in the decisions we make.”
“I believe we are still a Christian nation,” said Spalding County Commissioner Johnie McDaniel. “We are a nation that was founded on Christian principles, we have from the beginning ... believed in God.”
He said the country was founded on the notion of majority rule and the majority of people in the United States have no problem with prayer in schools and at public events. He said that somewhere, the right not to be offended has been invented and if someone asks him to pray, they ought not to object when he prays to the foundation of his faith.
“I think that the court system has just really made a mockery of the principle of separation of church and state,” McDaniel said.
He said the separation of church and state meant that the state cannot establish a religion, nor should religion dictate to the state. He said prayers at meetings and public events do not violate this standard. He said if the elected chairman wanted a Muslim cleric to pray, he would expect a Muslim prayer.
“Whoever is asked to pray I would expect them to pray to the one that they believe in,” he said.
Griffin Board of Commissioners member Cynthia Reid Ward agreed.
“When I pray, that’s who I pray to,” she said. “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”
She said she has no problem publicly expressing who her prayers and praise go to.
However, she is not inclined to break the law.
“Legally, if the law says we can’t do it, nobody can tell me in my heart who I pray to,” she said.
“My thoughts are that they are constitutional and I believe in the separation of church and state but not the exclusion of God and the state,” Griffin Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Dick Morrow said.
He said the nation was founded on the principle of “In God We Trust” and he does not believe court rulings banning prayer in schools and at government functions are constitutional.
However, he said government officials must obey the court and he will abide by the court’s decision whether he likes it or not.
- The Associated Press contributed to this story.