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A South Carolina school board's "moment of silence" has been hijacked by Christians
The atheist who asked the Christians to remain silent was asked to leave
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The Berkeley County Board of Education in South Carolina opens all of its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence… but for the past few meetings, those moments of silence have been interrupted by a Christian woman who shouts out the Lord’s Prayer.
You can hear it break the silence around the 1:20:40 mark in this video of the May 1 meeting:
The person who thinks God can only hear her if she yells about Jesus isn’t some random person. It’s Ann Conder, a former member of the school board from 2016-2020.
She told a local news outlet that Christian prayers were a formal part of the meetings until 2016, when the state passed a law called the Public Invocation Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Greece v. Galloway. The Act made it clear that any prayers at public meetings couldn’t “proselytize or advance any one (religion), or to disparage any other faith or belief.” In Berkeley County, in order to avoid trouble and to comply with the law, the Christian prayers were replaced with a neutral moment of silence.
All of that is true… so what the hell is her problem now?
She thinks Christian prayers should be reinstated on the basis of tradition: Because Christian prayers used to be a part of meetings, they should be allowed to make a comeback now. And if the board won’t do it themselves, she’ll just force her faith on everyone else.
“For fear of legal repercussions, the board at that time made the decision to place on the agenda a moment of silence instead of the longstanding practice of opening prayer. I beseech you to reinstate that historical practice,” Conder said to the board during public comment at a recent meeting.
Conder went on to say that recent rulings reinforce the right to prayer openings if they are rooted in tradition.
“It is to invite God into our boardroom so that he will grant you righteous guidance as you make your decisions for our children and their education. We will not be silenced and we will continue to invite God into this boardroom,” Conder said at the comment podium.
It’s one thing to say all that during the public comment portion of the meeting, when all kinds of kooks can say all kinds of insane things for a couple of minutes at a time.
But to hijack the moment of silence for her faith, thereby taking it away from everyone else, is both selfish and disrespectful.
At the most recent meeting last week, after Conder began yelling about Jesus again, a handful of people in the audience could be heard telling her to pipe down. “It’s supposed to be a moment of silence,” one man says around the 1:29:00 mark:
Another one of the sensible critics was Sheryl Monk, an atheist who simply wanted to prevent the meeting from turning into a church service. But when she called for Conder to remain silent, security guards grabbed Monk’s arm and asked her to leave the room.
“I’m an atheist now, but even when I did believe in the Christian God, I still felt the same way. I though government and Church should be this far apart,” Monk spread her hands wide as she explains her stance.
It’s telling that the critic of public prayer was asked to leave while the Christian woman disrupting the meeting faced no consequences at all. After all, the board’s own policies say that members of the public are only allowed to speak during a certain portion of the meeting—and the moment of silence isn’t that time. Monk was right to say, “As long as she keeps getting away with it... it’ll just continue.”
The board doesn’t have much of a choice here. They need to decide whether or not they want everyone to follow the rules or allow meetings to descend into faith-based chaos. If they’re unwilling to stop Conder from filling the silence with Jesus gibberish, then they shouldn’t be angry when other members of the public shout her down. What they can’t do is permit the Christian to disrupt the meeting while punishing everyone else.
If they don’t like those options, then they should just do away with the moment of silence entirely.
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