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Carroll commissioners to discuss handling of sectarian prayers Thursday

On the day after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that paved the way for Carroll County Commissioners to reinstate their practice of sectarian prayer before meeting, the board decided it would wait until Thursday to address the issue.

After a 45-minute closed session for legal advice, board members emerged from their meeting room and Commissioners President Dave Roush opened the meeting with a prayer starting with "God of us all" and did not invoke Jesus Christ once.

He then said the board would discuss how it would handle legislative prayer during open session Thursday.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Monday that the town of Greece, in upstate New York, did not violate the First Amendment by opening its monthly legislative meetings with prayer, which often invoked the name of Jesus Christ.

Within hours of the ruling, U.S. DIstrict Judge William D. Quarles Jr. lifted the injunction prohibiting sectarian prayers at Carroll County commissioner meetings.

Quarles had ordered the commissioners to stop invoking Jesus Christ during their weekly meetings March 26.

Quarles' ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought against the board by Carroll residents Bruce Hake and Neil Ridgely, who say they feel alienated by the commissioners' practice of opening their meetings with prayer.

Plaintiffs in the case have pledged to argue that the Supreme Court case does not impact the Carroll case, since commissioners open the meeting with prayer instead of local clergymen, but the board still faces contempt charges stemming from an incident at an early April commissioner meeting.

On April 2, Bruce Holstein, the campaign treasurer for Commissioner Richard Rothschild,  invoked the name of Jesus Christ during the public comment period, which led to plaintiffs in the case filing contempt charges against the board.

Commissioners on Monday issued a statement that said the board was "very pleased with the Galloway decision and expects to obtain a similar judgment before the Federal District Court."

Commissioner Robin Frazier took to Twitter to express her excitement on the ruling.

Frazier tweeted "Great News For America!!! Supreme Court has ruled! Argued that the intended audience 'is not the public, but the lawmakers themselves'" and "This decision affirms that we made the correct decision on how to handle this right from the beginning #FreedomReigns #FreeSpeech".

On March 27, the day after Quarles' ruling was handed down, Frazier opened the meeting with a sectarian prayer, invoking the name of Jesus Christ twice before saying she was willing to go to jail over her right to pray.

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