Carroll County Commissioner Robin Fraizer has been making national news of late.
The conservative commissioner had been praying during the beginning of meetings, using sectarian language (prayers referencing Jesus), and the state courts have deemed the practice unconstitutional.
What exactly does a county commissioner do?
Normally a group of three to five individuals, county commissioners do much for the area. Commissioners approve budgets, enact ordinances and enforce them, oversee county spending, and hire county employees. Some of their other duties include: managing county parks, assuring water quality, administering courts and jails, and collecting property and sales taxes. (Source: www.mrsc.org)
One has to remember that County Commissioners are responsible to the voters, but their duties are outlined and controlled by the State constitution and/or statutes. Commissioners are elected officials that serve both executive and legislative duties; their decisions can be overturned by the state.
After receiving reports of sectarian prayers being said before meetings, The American Humanist Association, a group dedicated to: “advance humanism, an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces,” called out the commissioner’s practice of praying to Jesus Christ in a letter dated March 7th 2014.
It read: “The recordings of the board meetings posted on the your website reveal that many meetings from September 15, 2011, through March 1, 2012, opened with a prayer that was delivered by a county commissioner. The prayers frequently mention “Jesus,” “Lord,” “Savior” and/or “Heavenly Father” and end with a biblical “amen.” Given these facts, the county’s actions are in violation of the Establishment Clause and therefore unconstitutional.” (Read the rest of the letter here.)
The AHA felt that the county commissioners numerous mentions of “Jesus”, “Lord”, and “Savior” could make other members of the community, who do not belong to any sectarian religion, feel uncomfortable and under-represented.
On the AHA website William Burgess, coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, commented “As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has already decided, it is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause when a legislature opens its sessions with sectarian prayers.”
Taken to court, the decision was made, and the commissioners were told they were not to begin the meetings with a prayer geared towards any one specific religion temporarily, until the dispositive motions hearing is held in September of 2014.
At the very next meeting, however, a Thursday, Frazier began the meeting with a prayer from George Washington’s personal journal (though the journal entry’s authenticity is contested by historians); the prayer was centered on Jesus Christ.
According to the Baltimore Sun’s Blair Ames, Frazier said, “This might be a good opportunity to demonstrate how our founding fathers, and leaders all throughout our history, have upheld the idea that we are a nation based on biblical principles…We’re one nation under God and I believe that’s where our unalienable rights come from.” Read more here.
Frazier has been found in contempt of court. She has also commented that she is “willing to go to jail for her beliefs.”
When asked for a comment by the Free Press, the commissioners’ office attorney Roberta Windham responded, “The commissioners’ are not commenting on this issue, none of them are. Unfortunately we can’t answer your questions.”