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Public continues Lord's Prayer tradition at Greencastle-Antrim school board meeting

October 18, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — At the first meeting following the Greencastle-Antrim School Board’s official decision to pull the Lord’s Prayer from its agenda, the public took matters into its own hands Thursday.

Trying not to break the law while exercising his faith, Brian Cordell of Greencastle tried a new approach — using his three minutes of public comment to pray.

While the board and the audience remained silent during the board-led moment of reflection, Cordell returned prayer to the meeting.

First, Cordell thanked the board for their selfless service.

“Thank you for volunteering your time,” he said. “I understand how stressful your position can be.”

Then he offered a word of prayer.

“I pray Father that you would guide and direct them. Lord, that you would watch over them and give them the wisdom that they need to lead the school district. And most importantly to lead our students,” Cordell said.

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“I just thank you and praise you, Lord for these past few months when the community has been under scrutiny. I pray for continued unity in our community, lord,” he said.

The school board’s break from tradition was in response to several visits from Carl Silverman, of Pennsylvania Non-Believers of York (Pa.), and Ernest Perce V, Pennsylvania state director for American Atheists, who told the school board to stop praying at its meetings or face legal action.

Silverman and Perce referred to an August 2011 ruling by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that bans public prayer before school board meetings.

Cordell added a word of prayer for Silverman and Perce.

“Father, I pray that you would open the eyes of their heart to the great love that you have for them,” he said.

Then, Cordell said the Lord’s Prayer with about 12 members of the audience joining in unison.
At past meetings, Silverman cautioned the public against disrupting the board meeting by praying out load during the moment of silence.
“Disrupting a lawful meeting is breaking the law in Pennsylvania,” he said previously.

He said charges could be filed against them, which he said would be misdemeanor charges.

But, Silverman said by phone Thursday night that the Greencastle board and public are on the right track.

“They (the school board) just have to treat everybody equally and the board, itself, does not participate in this prayer,” he said.

In other action, school board members support creating a local tax assistance program with the Borough of Greencastle and Antrim Township.

A Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program would breathe new life into deteriorating properties in the Greencastle-Antrim area.

Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover said without the school district on board the program is not as effective.

“I support this,” said board member William Thorne.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed whether to hold one board meeting rather than two board meetings a month beginning in January.

Currently, the board holds two board meetings the first and third Thursday of each month.

But, board President Eric Holtzman suggested to the board that a work session (where no voting occurs) be held the first Thursday and a full board meeting be held the third Thursday of the month.

The board will discuss possible meeting changes at its next board meeting.

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