Hopefully this will be the last time I write about the Forsyth County prayer case. I've written (many times) before about my disagreement with the Forsyth County commissioners who voted to fight the ACLU-backed lawsuit regarding sectarian prayers before commission meetings, so I won't rehash it all here. I will, however, cover one aspect of this affair that's always bugged me and that's the idea of who's footing the legal bills. (I've been prompted to write this because I just read that the plaintiff's attorneys bills came in at $248,000 which was negotiated down from $273,710.15 and the commissioners now have to decide whether or not to accept it or spend more money contesting it).
Here's the deal: the county commissioners were able to take the fight, against the advice of their own lawyer mind you, because one group volunteered to take the case at no expense to the county. Unfortunately that group would not agree to pay the plaintiff's legal costs if the county lost, so one or two commissioners were getting cold feet at the thought of paying the bill with taxpayer dollars if they lost. That's when a local group of church leaders formed a different group to raise money for a defense fund and said they'd cover plaintiff's costs up to $300,000 if the county commissioners lost. So all's good right?
Not in my mind. Here's why:
- While I believe there are times you will disagree with your own attorney, if you decide to go against your attorney's advice then you should be willing to fight with your own money. You know, put your money where your mouth is.
- By allowing an outside entity to fight your case you're essentially endorsing that outside entity. In this case they went with a conservative Christian group, but what if they'd been approached by a conservative Muslim group that agreed to fight for the exact same ruling and even agreed to cover the plaintiff's costs no matter what the outcome? Do you think the commissioners would have voted for it? I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell they would have because they'd have been perceived as supporting a fundamentalist Muslim group, and that's not happening.
- I also had some misgivings that the local group would actually come through with the money, but apparently they provided documentation proving that they had the funds set aside. Assuming that they do come through with the money I have to say I wish they'd spent it elsewhere, like maybe feeding the hungry. You see I've learned through volunteering with Second Harvest Food Bank that they can provide seven meals for $1, which means that if the money had been spent with them instead of on a court case that the county's own attorney said was a loser, they could have provided1,736,000 meals to some folks who really needed it. (I do realize that this could be said about a lot of other areas of spending, but it helps put things in perspective).
By the way if you really think the commissioners need prayers to guide their work you're more than welcome to go and pray for them during the public comments part of their meeting. In fact if they really thought they needed prayers to guide them before doing their business they could have added a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, opened it up to everyone, enjoyed the citizens' input (prayers included) and gotten on with their business and no one would have said "boo." But unfortunately they seemed to feel that the only people able to adequately pray for them were their hand-picked clergy members, which of course is what got them in trouble. I'm amazed people haven't taken offense to that.
Oops, I guess I lied when I said I'd only write about the bill.