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Carroll County to continue disputed prayer policy

WESTMINSTER — The Carroll County Commissioners have voted to continue a disputed policy allowing members to open their meetings with sectarian prayers.

Thursday’s 3-2 decision leaves it to the courts to decide whether the practice violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on state-sponsored religion.

The issue had been unresolved since the November election put three new members on the all-Republican, five-member board.

Proponents say the policy conforms to a Supreme Court ruling in May allowing clergy to invoke specific deities in opening prayers at government meetings. That opinion didn’t address Carroll County’s practice of having prayers said in rotation by the elected commissioners. Veteran Commissioner Richard Rothschild has shown a preference for overtly Christian prayers.

Plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit contend that sectarian prayers said by government officials violate the U.S. Constitution.