Oconee County Council Looks at New Prayer Policy, Cost of Legal Defense

January 10, 2007

Source: Aiken Today

Wire Service: AP

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WALHALLA -- The Oconee County council opened its work session with a prayer in Jesus' name and began considering a proposal to ignore demands from the American Civil Liberties Union that it end its practice of holding prayers at public meetings.

The Rev. Wayne Morton, president of the Oconee County Ministerial Association, offered the prayer Monday and said if anyone objected they could step outside the meeting room. Several observers in the room joined Morton in praying aloud.

For nearly two years, the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the county for allowing prayers at its council meetings that refer to Jesus and represent only one religion.

Morton offered a resolution from the Shreveport, La.-based Alliance Defense Fund that outlines a meeting prayer policy. It suggests that a prayer would not be listed or recognized as an agenda item and would be voluntarily delivered by a member of the clergy from the county.

Council member Frank Ables said the policy should be placed on the agenda for the council's next meeting. It could act as early as Jan. 16 on the issue.

County attorney Brad Norton outlined the legal options.