Rowan Commission Chairman defends vote to appeal prayer ruling

Published: Jun. 2, 2015 at 6:33 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2015 at 6:33 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - In a one on one interview with WBTV on Tuesday, Rowan County Commission Chairman Greg Edds defended the commission's unanimous vote to appeal a federal judge's decision that the prayers offered at the majority of meetings were in violation of the U.S. Constitution because they are offered in the name of Jesus.

"It's an important free speech case that we believe and we genuinely believe that this is an issue, that we are all free Americans and that the ideal of free speech is something that we all share," Edds told WBTV.

Edds said that the moment of decision came for him after meeting with his fellow commissioners for three hours last week.

"After 3 hours of discussion we believe it is the right thing to do, not only for us but for the country," Edds added.

As expected, the decision is getting mixed reactions. There is support from many, Edds says, but there has been criticism from those in the community who say that the appeal will cost taxpayers money and will take time away from other issues, such as economic development.

"It's absolutely a fair question. It's something that citizens need to know," Edds responded. "We would have costs from two different attorneys. One would be from our own county attorney as he corresponds or works back and forth with the attorney who is handling the case. Those costs have been very minimal, just a couple of thousand dollars. The attorney that is handling the case, David Gibbs, those fees are waived, they handle those themselves, so there is zero cost for the county for that. If we lost the case, however, ultimately, the ACLU may present to us their legal fees and we don't know what those are. We are working with some organizations who in the Forsyth County case, helped defer some of those costs and we're reaching to some of those groups that may help the county defer some of those costs if we ultimately lose."

Mike Meno from the ACLU of North Carolina did confirm for WBTV that Edds statement about the ACLU presenting legal fees to Rowan County in such a case is accurate.

Edds predicts a timeline anywhere from six months to a year for a decision to be reached on the appeal, and he adds that if the county loses at that stage, it will likely appeal to the Supreme Court.

"Some folks have said that they believe this divides and we believe the exact opposite," Edds added. "We tend to worship separately on the weekends but the grand American idea of free speech is something that is there for all of us and is something that unites us during the week, it's not anything that divides."

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