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BOCC adopts prayer policy amidst protest


XENIA — The Greene County Board of Commissioners adopted a policy Thursday afternoon to begin meetings with a prayer — a decision which has been a subject of discussion for the past several weeks.

However, prior to Thursday’s formal adoption of the policy, a visitor asked if he might be given a chance to address the commissioners at the podium.

After listing his name/address on the sign-up sheet, Gyamfi Gyamerah, of Yellow Springs, began to express his opinion that prayer should not be offered or given prior to a board meeting or any other government-type meeting.

He stated he belonged to a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. According to its website, the foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the principle of separation of church and state.

Gyamerah, 57, and a member of the Columbus free press, strongly objected to the board’s incorporation of a new prayer policy and let his opinions be known. After speaking for several minutes, he stepped down and the regular meeting resumed.

When the commissioners — led by president Rick Perales — gave their approval to the adoption of the prayer policy, Gyamerah made his disapproval known from his seated position in the audience. He loudly and repeatedly disagreed with the commissioners when urged to hold his comments such as “this is gaslighting” in check as he had already been granted an opportunity to speak at the podium.

Gyamerah then began to walk toward the commissioner’s raised platform area. He continued to voice his objections to prayers given at meetings in general and sited Ben Franklin’s opinions on separation of church and state as an example.

After repeatedly walking up and down the aisle, he was asked to leave by County Administrator Brandon Huddleson. Gyamerah did not quit admonishing the BOCC or retake his seat. Again, he was asked to leave and eventually he did so. Discussion of other agenda items resumed.

“I found it very disrespectful that we allowed him to speak uninterrupted and he proceeded to disrupt our meeting,” said commissioner Dick Gould. “Our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion — not freedom from religion.”

Under the policy, prayer giving is open to all and those interested can sign up to participate. Prayer givers must arrive at 12:45 p.m. before the beginning of the 1 p.m. regular weekly meeting. The board president will introduce the prayer giver and religious affiliation at the beginning of the meeting.

For more information on signing up as a prayer giver, call 937-562-5006.

Reach Karen Rase at 937-502-4534.