AP NEWS

Waterloo City Council members debate meeting prayers

August 21, 2019

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Members of the Waterloo City Council are again taking up the question of whether their meetings should be opened with a prayer.

The issue was raised Monday during a work session, the Courier reported.

Waterloo is one of the few large Iowa cities that allow prayers to open public meetings, but the practice has been sporadic in recent years. City Council agendas currently list “prayer or moment of silence” to open meetings, but most start with a moment of silence.

Councilman Pat Morrissey suggested changing the agenda to call for “invocation or moment of silence” at the start of a meeting.

″‘Invocation’ is a more generic rather than religious term,” Morrissey said. “That’s in due respect to those people who are either agnostic or atheistic who aren’t on board with a prayer.”

Council members Sharon Juon, Jerome Amos Jr. and Ray Feuss supported Morrissey’s suggestion, while Councilwoman Margaret Klein advocated for simply listing a moment of silence.

But Councilman Steve Schmitt said the council should keep the word “prayer” in the agenda and that each council member should have an opportunity to invite people to lead the opening prayer.

In 2004, the city ended what had been a long-standing tradition to open weekly meetings with prayer.

Following a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld sectarian prayers before government meetings as constitutional, Mayor Quentin Hart reinstated the opening prayers in 2016. At the time, he asked each council member on a rotating basis to recruit someone to lead the prayer at the first meeting of each month.

“After a while, there was only one or two council people that were actually participating,” Hart said. “The question is: Is council going to be committed?”

A decision on any change will be made at a later date.

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com