Duston Barto started Monday night’s Board of Commissioners session by becoming the first person to deliver a Muslim invocation at a Lincoln County government meeting.
By the end of the night, commissioners passed a motion that likely ensures he’ll be the last person to open their meetings with worship. After chastising Board of Commissioners Chairman Carrol Mitchem for walking out of the chamber prior to Barto’s speech, Commissioner Alex Patton motioned to scrap the county’s barely two-month-old all-inclusive invocation policy for a moment of silence.
The motion was unanticipated, occurring at the very end of the meeting, and no public comment was allowed. Only Mitchem voted in opposition.
Patton said the decision came as a result of a lack of participation from area churches.
“The problem there is 102 churches in Lincoln County, plus these that have popped up recently from other religions,” Patton said. “(County clerk Amy Atkins) can’t advertise, so there’s no real way to get them in.”
Commissioner Cecelia Martin first suggested the move to a moment of silence on May 18. That motion was denied, 4-1, and a prayer policy was put into place that enabled any local religious leader or “appointee of any assembly that periodically and regularly meets (within) the County” to give an invocation.
That policy was enacted shortly after Mitchem told the Times-News almost two weeks earlier that he would “not listen to no Muslim pray.” At the meeting that followed, he said that he shared the board’s goal to “come up with a clean, fair and constitutional policy of giving invocations at board meetings.”
But on Monday, Mitchem arrived to the chamber 30 minutes before the meeting started, left the room shortly before its beginning and didn’t return until after the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I said that I would not listen to a Muslim pray, is that not what I’ve said?” said Mitchem, who also told a television reporter that Patton is a “lunatic.”
“And that’s what I’ve done tonight. I’ve done exactly what I said I was going to do. I’m not going to listen to them pray. So I’ve just done all of my commitment.”
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SOURCE: Lincoln Times-News