Can a public official mention Jesus at an official meeting? According to a federal judge in Maryland, the answer is no. According to Carroll County commissioner Robin Frazier, it’s yes — and she’s willing to go to jail to defend what she sees is her right to free speech and religious expression:
“Out of respect for my colleagues — I’m not sure how strongly they feel about it. I’m willing to go to jail over it,” Frazier said during the meeting, referring to Jesus Christ twice despite the ruling.
“(Let) the Lord Jesus Christ to admit me to render these deserved thanks and praises for thy manifold mercies extended toward me. Let thy blessings guide this day, and forever, through Jesus Christ and his blessed form of prayer, I conclude my weak petitions,” she said during the meeting.
After receiving complaints, some Carroll County residents and a group called American Humanist Association issued a warning to the board about “sectarian prayer” during meetings in 2012 and then followed up with a lawsuit in April 2013.
“After the judge has already agreed with us that that’s what’s going on, I think it’s particularly troubling that one of the council members saw fit to violate not only the Constitution but the judge’s very specifically ruling that they can’t be doing this,” said Monica Miller, an attorney for the American Humanist Association.
This fellow seemed to have the best take on the situation:
“My concern is, really, who cares? If they say Jesus, I mean, does it really offend anybody?” questioned resident Brian Resch.
The question is really this: do people have a right to be free from offense at board meetings? After all, Carroll County isn’t establishing a “county religion” by having one of its members pray openly. No one else’s rights to faith or lack thereof have been infringed; the local government isn’t taking roll at the local church to make sure everyone attends. The imposition of silence on religious expression by the judiciary, fueled by those who simply cannot abide the expression of faith, causes more egregious damage toward liberty than a prayer at a board meeting or school graduation does.
There is no doubt that Frazier’s act is deliberately provocative, and one can debate whether that’s an effective witness to faith or not in terms of charity and goodwill. However, isn’t the remedy at hand the next election, rather than a gag order from the federal government?