But, does the ACLU have the guts to challenge Muslim friends of Governor O’Malley who want Arabic in Maryland elementary schools so their kids can understand their religion better?
Carroll County Commissioners have been starting their regular meetings with a Christian prayer and someone must have called in the ACLU.
This is the gist of the story (hat tip: Michelle) from the Carroll County Times:
Does Jesus Christ have a place in Carroll County government?
The all-Christian board of commissioners says yes, while some in the community feel the prayers now being said by board members at the beginning of public meetings are not representative of the county’s diverse population.
Citizens from around the county have been writing letters to the Times editor both opposing and agreeing with the commissioners’ decision to pray before the start of their meetings.
Members of the board take turns offering a public prayer at the beginning of their meetings. They often ask God for guidance, wisdom and knowledge while handling the county’s business as well as ask for God’s blessings for everyone in Carroll.
Many times, commissioners end their prayers with “… in Jesus’ name I pray.”
ACLU attorney: Commissioners meeting no place for “divisive and exclusionary” Christian prayer.
David Rocah, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said the commissioners’ sectarian prayers are divisive and exclusionary. When the county’s governing body opens a public meeting with a prayer from a particular religious faith, Rocah said it sends a message that residents who don’t share that particular faith are not full members of the community.
“I understand that the commissioners may themselves be devout Christians, and that’s wonderful, but they represent everyone [and] not just the Christians in the community,” Rocah said. “I think that prayer is important and wonderful and I think it has its place, but not at a county council meeting.”
ACLU attorney: Commissioners leave their free speech rights at the door of the Commissioners meeting room?
Rocah said that the courts have upheld that opening public meetings with sectarian prayers violates the federal law. The courts have, however, allowed nondenominational prayers because they are not inherently divisive.
Rocah said commissioners are not legally allowed to pray during meetings because they are serving in the capacity of elected officials and not as private citizens.
“When they’re praying as part of the official business of the county to open the county meeting, then they’re not doing it as a private citizen and they don’t have First Amendment rights,” Rocah said. “They’re a public official who is elected by the people and whose salary is paid by the people.
So what about the Muslims? Double standard?
Last week I reported that the Chairman (Anwer Hasan) of the Governors Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs, created in 2007 by an Executive Order of Governor O’Malley, which is promoting a plan to have Arabic taught to PUBLIC elementary school children in Maryland, stated that the plan was a good one for two reasons. This is Hasan as reported in the Muslim Link (emphasis mine):
“Years of effort has paid off. Im glad we have a governor in the state of Maryland who is really supportive of [this] initiative,” said Hassan. Arabic instruction is important for bridging the gap of understanding between the west and the Arab world, and for removing misconceptions about the Islamic faith, he added. National security and trade are also in need for more Arabic speakers, he said, adding that Maryland is a heavy exporter to the Middle East. Muslim children will also better understand their religion by knowing Arabic, said Hassan.
Why on earth should Maryland taxpayers fund anything to do with the Muslim faith?
Does Mohammed have a place in Maryland public schools?
If the ACLU of Maryland is consistent they should be landing like big birds on this brazen statement by Hasan and this outrageous plan endorsed by the Governors Commission on Middle Eastern Affairs and, by Hasan’s admission, endorsed by the Governor himself!
The contact information for the ACLU of Maryland is here in case anyone wants to encourage them to look into this important issue of the separation of church and state.
Double standard? Or, do some Republican county commissioners just make easier targets?
Contact Governor Martin O’Malley here.