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AHA Files Motion of Contempt Against Carroll County Commissioners for Sectarian Prayers

For Immediate Release

Maggie Ardiente, 202-238-9088 ext. 116 
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120

(April 2, 2014)—The American Humanist Association today filed a contempt motion against members of the Board of Commissioners of Carroll County, Maryland, after the board yesterday defied for a second time a preliminary injunction order issued by the U.S. District Court of Maryland forbidding sectarian prayers at public meetings.

Yesterday, the Board of Commissioners opened their meeting with a non-sectarian prayer, but then invited another speaker, Bruce Holstein, reportedly the campaign manager of one of the commissioners, to speak. He read a statement that was harshly critical of the court order, even saying that he was “overruling” the federal court, then ended his speech with a prayer that expressly referenced Jesus Christ. At no time did the commissioners interrupt or attempt to stop Mr. Holstein’s speech and prayer.

Yesterday’s prayer comes just a few days after one of the commissioners, Robin Frazier, opened a board meeting by expressing objections to the judge’s order and saying a Christian prayer in defiance of the court order.

“We regret this action had to be taken, but the commissioners have now broken the law twice,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “We thought Commissioner Frazier’s recitation of a sectarian prayer was a one-time incident. It’s now clear that she and the other Carroll County commissioners insist on continuing the practice of sectarian prayers at board meeting regardless of the court order.”

Judge William D. Quarels, Jr. of the U.S. District Court of Maryland issued the preliminary injunction on March 26 which prohibited Carroll County officials “from invoking the name of a specific deity associated with any specific faith or belief in prayers given at [Board] meetings” for the duration of the lawsuit.

The motion of contempt can be viewed here, and the memorandum of law in support of the plaintiff's motion for contempt here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.