Greensboro, NC -- Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight wants to have prayer before city council meetings.
Mayor Knight says prayer is part of American tradition and he wants it to continue.
"It's just something that I feel we should do and we will do," said Knight. His plan would be to have representatives from various faiths give an invocation at the start of the meetings.
Greensboro spokesman Jim Collins says there has been a moment of silence before meetings for years. The change would make it similar to the prayer the Guilford County Commissioners hold before their meetings.
Collins says the city council can vote to change the prayer if they want to. Councilman Robbie Perkins says prayer could alienate some residents of Greensboro, and he prefers sticking with a moment of silence.
Councilman Danny Thompson considers the prayer perfectly acceptable.
Knight says he'll invite local clergy members to lead prayer at the meetings starting next month.
Tuesday night's meeting will be the first with increased police presence following the arrests involving the Sit-In Movement Group. The first meeting with an invocation will be June 1st.
Prayer At Other Meetings
Earlier this year in Forsyth County, a judge ruled the prayer before their meetings was unconstitutional. In 2007, the 'American Civil Liberties Union' and 'Americans United for Separation of Church and State' filed a suit claiming the use of christian-themed prayers were not neutral enough for government activities.
The Forsyth County Commissioners voted to appeal the ruling. The Alliance Defense Fund is covering the legal costs.
In July 2007, High Point City Council adopted a resolution allowing only non-sectarian prayer at meeting.
At Winston-Salem City Council meetings, religious leaders from all religions lead the prayer however they choose, including references to Jesus, Allah or any other deity.
Statement from UNCG Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics
"The mayor of Greensboro has decided that City Council meetings shall now begin with prayer. According to the News & Record, Mayor Knight has stated that prayer is a "distinctly American quality and a very necessary element." According to the same article, the mayor claims that he is aware of the need to be inclusive, to not leave anyone out, so he will invite individuals from different faiths to participate in the invocation.
The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics find two serious problems with the mayor's position:
1. The mayor may be willing to include persons of all faiths (which is laudable), but non-sectarian prayer still excludes the non-religious. The City Council's previous practice of a moment of silence allowed for persons of all faiths to pray, while refusing to use our city government as a tool to advocate the supposed value of prayer. The moment of silence did not inhibit anyone from a private moment of prayer. The mayor's decision is nothing more than a government endorsement of prayer, and an insult to the non-religious residents of this great city.
2. The mayor justified his decision by claiming that prayer is a distinctly American quality, which implies that there is something un-American (or less patriotic) about those of us who do not pray. What if the mayor had justified any other revision of our City Council meetings by insinuating that Catholics or Jews or Mormons were somehow not quite as American as his fellow Methodists? Of course this would not be acceptable. And the mayor's statement is no more acceptable simply because those who are excluded and whose citizenship is devalued are atheists. Respect for religious liberty is an American quality, and Mayor Knight is certainly entitled to believe whatever he wants about atheists. But it is completely unacceptable that he should use the people of Greensboro's City Council as a platform to advocate his private belief in the necessity of prayer."
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WFMY News 2