Private prayer and government speech [Letter]

March 31, 2014

The Sun correctly criticized the Carroll County Board of Commissioners for defying a federal court order by opening a recent meeting with a sectarian prayer ("A difficult balance," March 27).

But one point was faulty: The editorial expressed concern that the commissioners' freedom of speech was threatened by restrictions on government prayer.

Such concern is misplaced because the court made it clear that the start of a government meeting is not an open forum for free speech. Rather, the speech taking place is considered government speech – and when the government speaks it must do so in a nonsectarian way.

The commissioners must realize that the opening of a public meeting is not a place for them to freely express their particular sectarian religious views but instead a forum that must be welcoming and respectful of all citizens.

Roy Speckhardt, Washington

The writer is executive director of the American Humanist Association.

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