BREVARD — Monday night there were as many as 1,200 people waiting outside the Transylvania County Courthouse according to the Transylvania Sheriffs department, prompting the Brevard City Police to close main street, as well as a standing room only crowd of 325 inside as the meeting according to the county Fire Marshall who was called in due to overcrowding in the courtroom, and asked several to leave the courtroom and stairway due to life safety issues, as hundreds of local residents wanted to hear what county commissioners had to say about prayer being offered at the start of official meetings.
Earlier this month representatives from the American Civil Liberty Union’s North Carolina office sent commissioners a letter stating they had received a complaint questioning the legality of public prayer at public meetings from a couple who moved to the area 3 weeks ago. The Nulls who filed the complaint are activist for homosexual rights, and have lobbied in other states to impose their liberal views on other communities according to numerous web sites that applaud their efforts. The Nulls attended the meeting, however did not apply to speak during the public comment period which was extended by the board, and were seen leaving out the back door of the court house shortly after the vote to expand the commissioners freedom to pray was taken, and declined comment to the media.
In January 2006 the commissioners adopted a policy of opening their meetings with an invocation which did not make any particular references to any specific religions, but Monday night the board unanimously made some changes to preserve their religious freedoms.
Monday night, several people spoke their minds in the over crowded courthouse.
Pastor Randy Barton of Anchor Baptist Church said to the commissioners during public comment time that the constitution of our state from the revolution to the civil war required that anyone holding public office were disqualified if they denied the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments. Pastor Barton closed his remarks to the board by saying “We the people of Transylvania County pledge to defend you with our prayers, out votes and are finances if necessary,” “We urge you to pray according to your own conscience and not the threats of the Anti Christian Litigation Unit, also known as the ACLU.”
Pastor Allen Aiken of Rosman Baptist Tabernacle said“A lot of what’s at stake is in the name of Jesus Christ,” and added. “Don’t give in and don’t give up, because the cause is worthwhile.”
Several others voice similar sentiments, most receiving standing ovations from the crowd as well as from the commissioners.
After that discussion and several rounds of applause, the board unanimously made several policy changes to preserve their religious freedoms.
Whereas the previous policy did not allow for commissioners to reference any particular religion, the new policy allows the designated board member to give the invocation in his or her own capacity as a private citizen according to the dictates of their own conscience.
Commissioner Daryle Hogsed said.”Just in case it was lost in the legalese, we will be able to pray in the name of Jesus Christ if we chose to do so,” “That is a Constitutional right I will take advantage of.”
The policy further dictates that no guidelines will be issued regarding the prayer’s content, except that no prayer should advance or disparage any faith or non-religious views of others.
Commissioner David Guice said”We’ve had prayer for open meetings for years,”, “I think Christ had been at the center of these meetings and this is a step in the right direction. We can move forward and this is all very positive for our community.”
Chairman Jason Chappell agreed addressing the audience said
“This is not a perfect policy, but we do need a change,”. “These are interesting times we live in and it is an honor to server and represent you.”
Commissioner Lynn Bullock said “Some folks thought we had more important items to discuss tonight, but nothing is more important than this,”. “I’m not opposed to any religion or prayer and can’t understand why anyone would ask us not to pray to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I will never deny my Lord and Savior.”
Commissioner Kelvin Phillips said the controversy which brought so many people to the meeting may have been a blessing in disguise. Phillips said. “Sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if we just trust the one who is in control of the tunnel,”
The commissioners went on to vote unanimously to adopt the new resolution and the crowd both inside and outside erupted with applause, and the meeting had to be temporarily recessed to accommodate the massive crowd.