When it comes to religion in America, the majority is most certainly not permitted to rule. Apparently an official in a North Carolina county is unaware of this fact, as evidenced by his recent claim that non-Christians should be banned from giving prayers before local government meetings.
Last week, we noted that a federal judge struck down the legislative prayer practice in Rowan County, N.C., because that county’s commissioners delivered pre-meeting prayers themselves – and 97 percent of those invocations were Christian messages (over a seven-year period).
Carrol Mitchem, chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, was not a fan of that decision. In response, he issued some appalling words that leave no doubt about his opinion of non-Christian religions.
“Other religions, or whatever, are in the minority,” Mitchem told WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte. “The U.S. was founded on Christianity. I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities. The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity. This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I'm standing up for.
“I ain’t gonna have no new religion or pray to Allah or nothing like that,” he added. “We’re fighting Muslims every day. I'm not saying they’re all bad. They believe in a different God than I do. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. But, they don't need to be telling us, as Christians, what we need to be doing. They don't need to be rubbing our faces in it.”
Sadly, that wasn’t the end of Mitchem’s misguided rant. He also gave an interview to the Lincoln Times-News, during which he said he doesn’t like “changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded.”
He added, “I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.”
If Mitchem insists on excluding all non-Christians from offering prayers before meetings of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, and it seems likely that he will, he may find himself in legal trouble. Although the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Greece v. Galloway said it is acceptable for government bodies to open their meetings with predominantly Christian prayers, the high court also said officials must make an effort to include minority religions and non-believers
This issue really is not complicated. If officials insist on opening their meetings with official prayers, they may do so – as long as all viewpoints are given an opportunity to participate. If local governments are unwilling to follow that straightforward rule, then they have the option of a moment of silence or nothing at all. Anything else runs afoul of the Constitution.
Fortunately, it seems one of Mitchem’s colleagues has a bit more sense. Lincoln County Commissioner Alex Patton, who identifies as Christian, told WBTV that Mitchem’s characterization of religious groups is inaccurate.
“I am a Christian, but I do not agree with Commissioner Mitchem,” Patton said. “Our country was founded on freedom of religion. All Muslims are not bad, just as all Christians are not good.”
Patton added: Mitchem has “just exposed our county to potential litigation, which was needless.”
Bingo. No matter how strongly Mitchem feels on this issue, he’ll have to back down eventually. The only remaining question is whether he will do so on his own, or if a judge will have to force him to do so – after his foolishness wastes taxpayer money.