KINGWOOD, W.Va. – The Preston County Commission received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, requesting that they stop promoting and hosting religious events on the courthouse lawn like the National Day of Prayer.
The foundation penned the letter as a request from a Preston County resident who said they were concerned with the National Day of Prayer event in 2019 because it was a failure of separation of church and state.
The event has been held annually for several years and county commissioner Dave Price said he expects it to continue.
“They indicated using tax dollars for this event and that was not the case other than maybe the website that mentioned this was an activity that was going to take place,” Price said.
The letter stated that the county was directly promoting religion because the commission had promoted the event on their personal website and told people to, ‘join the Preston County Commissioners on the courthouse lawn at noon on Thursday, May 2, 2019, to celebrate the National Day of Prayer.’
“The event on the courthouse lawn in Preston County is probably not much different than any other county,” Price said. “We have a number of different groups who request to have a small event on the courthouse lawn.”
Groups like firefighters and multiple denominations of churches all fill out the necessary paperwork and then are allowed to use the lawn Price said. Although the population of Preston County was a majority Christian, he said, they would also approve properly filed requests from Hindus, Muslims, Atheists and any other group in the community.
Price explained to him, the separation of church and state means the government cannot favor or discourage one religion over others, and the county commission has and will stick to that principle.
Moving forward, Price said the commission may change how they advertise events on their website and look at the language.
However, for now, he said they are contemplating writing back to the Freedom from Religion Foundation to thank them for bringing the issue to their attention.