Meeting prayers remain on agenda

Published 6:19 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors is considering options when it comes to prayer before meetings and plans to address the issue again at its September work session.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty, who is also the pastor of Healing Waters Worship Center, provided some choices to his fellow Board members. 

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The suggestions included putting out an open invitation to local pastors to provide the service. 

McCarty also expressed interest in leading a prayer if no one else comes forward — and he would step away from the dais to do it. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree suggested that they offer the opportunity to all religious organizations in the county, and allow them to broadcast their information as a way to get their name out. 

One reason the decision was put off until September was because Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie was absent Thursday. 

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled that elected officials violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution when they lead a prayer before a government meeting. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal by Rowan County, N.C., where the suit originated. 

Since Virginia is in the 4th Circuit, the ruling applies to Isle of Wight County. 

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors opens every meeting with a prayer on a rotating basis and often invokes the name of Jesus.

Isle of Wight County attorney Mark Popovich has advised the Board that it needs to change its habit or risk violating a court order. 

Popovich said Thursday that it might be O.K. if a Board member gives the invocation if no one else stands up to do it, but if it gets to be a regular occurrence, then “you’re reaching dangerous territory.”

In a nod to the court ruling, Acree invited Judy Worrell, the chaplain with Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department, to provide the invocation on Thursday. 

Chairman Rudolph Jefferson invited the Rev. James Jones to provide the invocation at the July meeting. 

Not all residents enjoy the religious invocations before the meeting.

Carrollton resident Donald Williams chastised the Board for ignoring last year’s court order, as well as questioned the effectiveness of prayer in the first place.

“You all pretend that prayers matter,” he said, adding that prayers won’t result in every child passing the Standards of Learning, among other examples. 

“Keep your prayers to yourself … Praying to an imaginary being does nothing. Stop it,” he said.   {/mprestriction}