Brown County Board Vice Chairwoman Mary Scray opened Wednesday’s board meeting with a prayer, but the question of the legality of such prayer will remain on the board’s agenda for at least a while longer.
Scray typically has ended her invocation with the phrase, “In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.” That tradition was put under scrutiny earlier this month when the Green Bay Press-Gazette questioned whether it violated U.S. Supreme Court rulings on separation of church and state.
The Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation submitted a letter asking the board to stop the prayers. A Suamico resident also submitted a letter Wednesday to that effect; it was referred to the board’s Executive Committee for consideration.
County corporation counsel John Luetscher provided supervisors with a memo supporting the board’s right to say nonsectarian prayers that don’t favor one particular faith over another.
County Board lawyer Fred Mohr told the Press-Gazette after Wednesday’s meeting that he advised Scray to change “what she used to say.” He said he believed her prayer Wednesday passed constitutional muster.
In her prayer, Scray addressed “dear Lord” and ended with “in the Lord, our savior’s name.” She asked “the Lord” to “help the media here report the news,” not create the news by raising controversy. She said in her prayer that 85 percent of the population “was fine with” invoking the Lord’s name or Jesus’ name.
Scray said she looks at the prayer as an opportunity to bring board members together. No member of the board or public has ever complained, and since the Press-Gazette raised the controversy, she said, she has received many calls, emails and comments supporting her prayers.
Also on Wednesday, the board passed a resolution asking the state to provide emergency compensation to residents of southern Brown County who believe their health is being harmed by wind turbines.
Some Glenmore residents who live near wind turbines claim they are being sickened by inaudible noise and stray voltage. The resolution asks the state to provide money for the temporary relocation of those who have felt a need to vacate their homes to escape the effects.
Some supervisors objected to the original wording of the resolution, as presented by the county health department, because it stated that the turbines definitely caused some people’s health problems.
“Until there’s more proof, I’m not going to support that,” Supervisor Bernie Erickson said.
In the end, the board softened the language of the resolution, inserting words like “purportedly” and saying the board “strongly believes” the turbines are the cause of the problems.
“I was more supportive of the original version, but I’m proud they (supervisors) stood up for those residents,” said Barb Vanden Boogart, who has been working with the residents to fight the turbines. “I think Madison needs to realize people are being impacted, and they’ll listen to the board more than they’ll listen to us.”
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