Commissioners showed courage, did the right thing

I’m a newcomer to Carroll County. Since I’ve only been a resident for 25 years, some may feel I have not yet earned a say in the voice of county governance, since I’ve never milked a cow here. During my early years in the county, one of the commissioners regularly referred to “the high school” in reference to Westminster High School. This was a time when the county was preparing to open its sixth and seventh high schools. Staying in touch with the ground truth of the changing face of the county (or the country) has not always been a collective strong suit of the commissioners over the years.

However, in its vote on the decision to settle the suit on prayers before its meetings, the current board showed courage in doing the right the right thing in the face of a live audience that was variously strident, self-righteous and sometimes antagonistic, Recent prior boards featured the antics of Richard Rothschild, Robin Frazier and Haven Shoemaker, who were unabashed in increasingly marginalizing the views of citizens that differed from theirs, and it was painful to watch. Their legacy includes theatrical affirmations of 2nd Amendment rights, the “English only” ordinance and the propagation of absurd conspiracy theories from the dais.

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The resulting public persona rightly gave rise to ridicule as they perpetuated negative stereotypes about rural Maryland. At its worst, these boards pulled back the veil on a basic fear of those not like them. The board’s choice to cut out losses and choose fiscal responsibility for ALL of Carroll’s citizens over a symbolic continued “fight” that could have cost significantly more money than the settlement amount was the right one. Moreover, those who still wish to pray will still have that opportunity. They can do so either during the moment of silent the board offers, or however they choose outside of the meeting chamber. They can also do so confident that those who worship differently — or not at all — won’t be awkwardly force-fed the religious views of others.

Mr. Rothschild unsurprisingly has already opined in the Times again. I’m glad that his time in office has passed, and the current board had the resolve to act as it did. Ultimately, this fiscally responsible choice serves every citizen in the county, who are now spared financing the desires of advocates for public prayer as part of county proceedings.

Dean Horvath

Eldersburg

Popular opinion, money valued over freedom by commissioners

I was pleased with the coverage that the Times gave to arguments from both sides in the commissioners’ prayer matter. While I’m disappointed by the decision of the commissioners I’m not at all surprised. Popular opinion as cited by Commissioner Wantz can easily alter the views of elected officials with weak convictions and persons lacking serious religious beliefs have little concern for losses of hard won rights of conscience.

The Bible has a lot to say about this type of individual, none of it good. And it has nothing to say about the future of this country which seems to be dying spiritually even as it prospers economically — a consequence of decades of “enlightenment” thinking in political and educational disciplines (think liberals educating susceptible minds). E.g. “The cosmos is all there is or ever will be”, i.e. when you die, any injustices against you will never be rectified.

Unfortunately the head of the commissioners seemed determined to value money over the extravagantly costly (in terms of human sacrifices) freedom purchased for all to legally practice their religion anywhere in America. Yet as ex-commissioner Rothschild pointed out in his Tuesday column, the money part is in line with other county expenditures but the damage that this precedent-setting case which their capitulation will help to strengthen far exceeds its cost. Furthermore, with the new Supreme court constituency, this attack on this constitutional right has a high probability of failing in which case none of the plaintiff’s expenses could be extorted from the county.

In the Constitution, the original prohibition against support of particular religions applies not to state officials but the that of the federal government so this lawsuit really had no merit. The greatest irony in these exchanges has been overlooked by all the debaters. The fourth Circuit seemed very concerned that the government refrain from all sectarian activities less the 1st amendment be violated which prohibits U.S. government from giving support to a particular religion, i.e. establishing a State religion. But in giving its opinion, it violated the 2nd part of the 1st amendment regarding religion, “...nor curtailing free exercise thereof...”

They denied the right of commissioners to merely invoke the guidance and blessing of God upon their deliberations. So here’s the irony, prayers (which are not legislation and not binding upon hearers or any citizen) are (unconstitutionally) restrained by the Court’s prohibition (which carries the weight of law) a clear violation of the curtailment clause of our Constitution. A visit to the Supreme Court might have set things straight except for the unconcern of current commissioners. Future attempts to restore rights of conscience are now weakened.

Merritt Walsh

Westminster

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