SALISBURY — The Rowan County Commissioners held their first meeting Monday since a judge issued an injunction ordering them to stop sectarian prayers at their county meetings. While the commissioners did not pray publicly Monday, Christianity was at the heart of their meeting.

“The holy bible reflects the views of this Board of Commissioners,” said commissioner Jon Barber.

A board of commissioners fighting for what they call their right to pray in Jesus’ name. But in their first meeting since a federal judge ordered them to stop, they those to not pray at all.

“I cannot pray a prayer that does not reflect my Christian values or has been diluted,” Barber said.

They voted to take a recess, presumably to vote in private, and told members of the audience to have a moment of silence.

But it wasn’t silent for long. Jason Josey prayed in the commissioners’ place, and many in the audience bowed their heads with him.

“They were going to be bound by that letter from the judge. And I’m not bound by that same letter, so I decided to pray for them in Jesus’ name,” Josey said.

Some say the actions seemed staged — a way to work around the federal injunction.

“I believe it was all set up before the meeting even started,” said John Melton, the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in China Grove.

But Josey says it wasn’t.

“Here’s the honest truth — sometimes it seems the Lord impresses you to do some things you don’t even want to do,” Josey said.

The commissioners say the federal injunction is unconstitutional, and many Rowan County residents agree with them.

“You ought to publicly be able to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, your lord and savior. Everybody’s got that right,” Melton said.

The commissioners say they’re complying with the injunction, leaving “Jesus” out of their prayers for now.

The federal injunction stems from an ACLU filed back in March. The ACLU says the commissioners are infringing up residents’ religious freedom by saying only Christian prayers at meetings.

– Jenna Barnes