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Newly elected Carroll County, Md., officials silent on changing disputed public prayer policy

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WESTMINSTER, Maryland — The newly elected Carroll County Commissioners are standing silent on a disputed public-prayer policy.

The five-member, all-Republican board opened its first meeting Tuesday in Westminster with a moment of silence instead of a prayer. They took no official action regarding the previous board's policy of opening meetings with sometimes overtly Christian prayers, said by the commissioners themselves.

That practice faces a federal court challenge alleging that elected officials violate the First Amendment prohibition on state-sponsored religion when they recite overtly Christian opening prayers.

The Supreme Court ruled in a New York case in May that invited clergy may invoke specific deities in prayers at government meetings.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, one of two returning members, prayed aloud during a swearing-in ceremony that the new board would continue to have opening prayers.

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