By Bertrand M. Gutiérrez
Closing a prayer at a government meeting Monday, James Booth, a member of the Stokes County Board of Commissioners, said: “Now lead us with thy spirit as we go forth in this meeting. In Jesus name, we pray.”
The Stokes commissioners regularly pray in the name of Jesus at the beginning of government meetings. “Tradition runs very deep and we want to continue our traditions,” Ronda Jones, the chairwoman of the Stokes board, said after the meeting. Now, the Stokes commissioners are reviewing their prayer policy, she said.
As Booth, other commissioners and audience members prayed, Steven Hewett did not.
Hewett — an Afghanistan veteran who successfully fought the city of King over flying a Christian flag at a veterans memorial on public property — wants to give an invocation at Stokes meetings, and at meetings of the city of King.
In May, he requested permission to do so.
Hewett, an atheist, still hasn’t been told definitively by Stokes whether he may do so. King, meanwhile, is still working on an invocation policy. And Greg Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is watching.
“One of the things we’ll be looking at is: Are there roadblocks that seem to make it harder for religious minorities to participate?” he said.
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