SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - Members from the Cleveland County Christian Law Enforcement Association addressed Cleveland County School Board members Monday night about praying before every school board meeting.
The board voted 8-to-2 to continue with a moment of silence. However, they said they will get policy and procedures recommendations from the superintendent and legal team in time for another meeting on November 9.
The meeting room was so packed Monday night that the fire marshal had to ask some to leave. People were very emotional about the subject.
The conversation began when officers talked at one of their gatherings and found out every governmental entity in Cleveland County prays before its meeting, except the school board.
"We think God should be in our lives," Cleveland County Sheriff's Office Captain Joel Shores said. "And in everything we do. And we are seeing these progressives try to slowly remove everything that our what we feel our forefathers fought for."
Shores told WBTV he would be at Monday night's board meeting requesting board members to pray before meetings. He said he believed the moment of silence already observed is not good enough.
"It's time for Christians to stand up." Shores said.
This issue is nothing new. It has been brought up before, but the school board has not taken the matter up before Monday. Cleveland County School Board Chair Phillip Glover tells WBTV the board decided to do moment of silence so lawsuits wouldn't come their way.
"With all the budget issues that we have," Glover said. "Could you justify spending that kind of money to fight a fight that you probably won't win anyhow with the high courts."
School Board member Danny Blanton told WBTV he believed prayer should override lawsuits.
"If we get a lawsuit brought against us," Blanton said, "For having prayer and praying for our children and our schools, and our teachers - then bring that lawsuit on."
The Cleveland County Sheriff, Alan Norman, was also backing prayer. He posted a letter about it to his Facebook page. He told WBTV he did not write the note.
The letter is from the Cleveland County Christian Law Enforcement Association. It reads,"If any Board needs to have God in their presence when making decisions," the post read. "It should be our school board."
Shores told WBTV he had received some push back about prayer before school board meetings, but says that will not deter him from approaching the school board.
Glover tells WBTV he wished the law enforcement group would have come to him first.
"Somewhat disappointed," Glover said. "That they haven't come to us before now and sit down at the table and have a conversation. I would like to work with them and see what can we come up with - that would be best to make both sides happy."
The ACLU also responded to the push for prayer. The group sent WBTV an email about the debate.
"Public school board meetings should be open and welcoming to students and residents of all beliefs. Cleveland County's school board shouldn't get into the divisive and legally problematic business of favoring one person's religious views over others," the email read.
"Our office has been contacted by concerned county residents who rightfully believe that opening school board meetings with prayers could make students or residents of different beliefs feel unwelcome or pressured into participating in a religious activity with which they don't agree," the email continued. "Courts have found such practices to be unconstitutional, especially in school board settings."
Shores told WBTV that local churches have told him they would help with legal assistance if needed. He said he hoped the board would change its mind and establish prayer before meetings. If they didn't, he says it will be out of his hands.
"That will up to the voters of this county," Shores said. "Of this community, as I spoke again to determine if they want Godly leaders running their school board."
The meeting started at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland County School Board Building. The next meeting, where the issue could come back up, is on November 9.