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WESTMINSTER, Md. – Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a motion of contempt Tuesday morning in a U.S. District Court of Maryland prayer case filed against the Carroll County Commissioners.
The motion seeks fines of ,000 from the defendants and requests that Judge William D. Quarles Jr. to also rule that further violations of a preliminary injunction forbidding sectarian prayers at public meetings will result in an additional ,000 fine for each violation.
A sectarian prayer offered by a private citizen at the commissioner's budget meeting Tuesday morning, prompted the filing of the contempt motion by attorneys for the American Humanist Association, on behalf of a number of Carroll County residents who are plaintiffs in the case. 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.
A spokesperson for the commissioners referred questions about contempt action to attorneys for the defense. Those attorneys have been contacted, but have yet to reply.
On Tuesday, after commissioners opened their meeting with a non-sectarian prayer, Bruce Holstein,who identified himself as a private citizen, but who is reportedly the campaign manager of one of the commissioners, spoke during the public comment part of the meeting. After reading a statemnt that was “harshly critical of the court order, even saying that he was 'overruling' the federal court, he ended his speech with a prayer specifically referencing Jesus Christ. The commissioners made no attempt to interrupt or stop Holstein’s speech or prayer, according to Maggie Ardiente, spokesperson for the AHA.
“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,” Ardiente said.
“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.”
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