Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reflections on the Lincoln County Board of Commisioners Meeting

Here are my quick initial reflections on Monday's Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Meeting:
  • There was no opening invocation for this meeting (and nobody complained about that, but the post 1954-Pledge was said), and the Commissioners were still able to do the people's business in front of a crowd of over a hundred - standing room only, overflow crowd in the outside hallway.
  • Everyone who wanted to got a chance to speak, including two atheists (we were first!), a Muslim, a Wiccan, a Pagan, and several Christians who spoke out for non-discrimination in invocations (or no invocation, or a moment of silence - one of the Fundamentalist Christian protestors standing near me said he would come and pray out loud himself during the moment of silence if they passed that). A majority of the speakers were critical of Mitchem and advocated an inclusive policy, and even a few of Mitchem's "supporters" acknowledged that they "might have said it differently."
  • Three or four Fundamentalist Christians, several carrying hate literature and signage, spoke in defense of the words that Commissioner Mitchem took back. I won't repeat what they said here. True Islamophobia at its worst.
  • A former Commissioner and Christian joked with Mitchem that he had "really stepped in it buddy, and tracked it in the house!" He also noted that historically Lincoln County had never actually discriminated in who gave the invocations, but that they had had trouble finding someone to do them. As a Commissioner, he used to do them himself (as did the current Commissioners until about 6 months ago when they started inviting local clergy to do them).
  • Mitchem promised to treat people of all religions fairly in his government duties and tried to blame the media for the whole kerfuffle. He didn't clarify his position further, or talk about his vow to walk out if a Muslim gave the invocation - but he did refuse the offer by the Muslim speaker to personally hand him a Koran (Mitchem: "You can put it on the desk").
  • Commissioner Martin formerly proposed replacing the invocation with a moment of silence and was therefore the only vote against the policy that was adopted.
  • I'm looking forward to the first Hickory Humanist Alliance meeting in Lincoln County, and I hope Commissioner Mitchem is remembered as the guy who diversified the invocations at Lincoln County Commission meetings.
Lincoln County Board of Commissioners
Chairman Carrol Mitchem

Meanwhile, it's getting interesting in Mecklenburg County...where the Commissioners apparently still give the invocations. And Rowan has switched to Plan B while they explore their next steps.

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