Prayer in Meetings Debate Goes Into Mediation
Pittsylvania Co., VA - The debate over whether the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors can say a Christian prayer before meetings was once again in court Friday.
Both sides presented their arguments in Danville Federal Court. The county lawyer argued that this case is different from other prayer lawsuits because they say there were no injuries.
The ACLU lawyer says reading the Christian prayers in a public meeting is injury enough.
"We are standing up for what we believe is right," said Tim Barber, chairman of Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
Friday, it came down to an argument of injury.
ACLU lawyer Rebecca Glenberg stated the laws and facts are clear: praying to Jesus Christ at a Supervisors meeting goes against the Constitution.
"When the board of supervisors opens its meeting with a specifically Christian prayer it sends a very clear message that this board favors Christianity," said Glenberg.
Glenberg represents Barbara Hudson, who regularly attends Supervisors' meetings. She argues the prayers make Hudson feel unwelcome, like an outsider in her own community, and like she will be treated unfairly.
"This plaintiff in this case has not been injured, but actually has not suffered an injury but she seeks to injure the board of supervisors," said Bill Stanley, the Pittsylvania County lawyer.
Stanley says there remains no evidence that Hudson is not welcome or treated any differently.
Stanley turned to comments made by Hudson in the past -calling supervisors vampires, villains and even comparing the county to a third world country. Stanley says those remarks are self-imposed alienation.
"What you see there is someone who has a personal animus against the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. And not only the board of supervisors but has a belief that she is somehow better than the citizens of Pittsylvania County," said Stanley.
"I don't think this has ever been about the prayer. I think it is a personal attack on the board of supervisors. I think that was brought out pretty clearly today," said Barber.
Both sides agreed to go into mediation. If they can't make a decision, they will go before a federal magistrate judge who will decide the case. As for now, the board is not allowed to pray at meetings until the case is settled.