WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) –The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will consider potential next steps Monday after a nonprofit alleged the board is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by opening its meetings with a Christian prayer led by a member of the board.

On Jan. 19, commissioners received a letter from Ian Smith, an attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national nonprofit organization. Smith said the nonprofit had received a complaint about the board opening its meeting with Christian prayer delivered by a board member, adding that the chairman of the board “routinely asks the audience to stand for this prayer.”

“The Board of Commissioners exists to represent all citizens of Beaufort County, regardless of faith or belief,” Smith wrote in the letter. “The practice of county officials composing and reciting official prayers sends the message that nonbelievers and adherents of faiths that do not wish to participate in the Board’s prayers are not accepted members of the community and pressuring the audience to stand for the prayer coerces them to participate in the Board’s religious activities.”

You can read the full letter below.

Smith included two potential changes that he claimed would bring the county’s “blatantly unconstitutional” practice into compliance with the First Amendment.

“… The board should replace the prayer practice with a moment of silence,” Smith wrote. “If the board insists on opening its meetings with an invocation, it should adopt a policy that turns the delivery of invocations over to private citizens who are selected based on neutral criteria that do not discriminate against minority faiths or nonbelievers. And either way, the board must stop asking the audience to stand or otherwise participate in the prayer.”

Smith ended the letter by saying that the organization would “appreciate a response within 30 days that informs us of the steps you are taking to fix this violation.”

“If they do not change the practice, then we will inform the community member who reported the violation to us and decide whether to take further action at that time,” Smith said in a statement to WNCT. “But the binding precedent on the commission is crystal clear and we expect them to change their practice.”

The topic is on the agenda for the board’s monthly meeting Monday night. The information included in the agenda packet shows that County Manager Brian Alligood and County Attorney David Francisco will ask the board to direct them on how they’d like to proceed with the matter.

This isn’t the first time a North Carolina county’s routine of prayer in meetings has been scrutinized.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered the Rowan County commissioners to stop opening its public meetings with prayer specific to one religion. The ACLU and ACLU of North Carolina had filed a lawsuit against the county earlier that year on behalf of three complainants.

A similar situation happened in Forsyth County. A 2010 injunction sectarian prayer before Forsyth County Commissioners meetings. A judge lifted that prayer ban in 2014, with some stipulations. For example, the judge said the county would need to modify its policy so that people of all beliefs, as well as atheists, be invited to speak at the beginning of meetings.