Council Opens with Statement before Praying
(Memphis) Since 1968, prayer has opened city council meetings in Memphis. But Tuesday before Pastor Mike Williams gave his invocation, council read a new disclaimer that will be part of the council agenda from now on.
The statement reads in part, “No member of the community is required to attend to participate in the invocation.”
“If that prevents anyone from saying that we are infringing on anybody’s individual rights so be it,” Councilman Harold Collins said.
Collins said the purpose is to let people know if they don’t want to pray they don’t have to.
“If that’s something we have to do to conduct our business the way we’ve been conducting it that’s fine,” Collins said.
The city added the statement after the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit in August arguing the prayer violates the constitution.
“Why subject the city to a suit just to say a few words to a higher power?” asked Memphis resident Jeremy Robinson.”Why should they have prayer in city council when we can’t have it in schools? It goes right to the heart of church and state.”
But most people hope the disclaimer prevents a lawsuit and keeps prayer alive.
“It’s those little groups like that come into little towns and cities and start-up a whole lot of corruption,” Tempest Williams said. ” People need prayer.”
Collins said this is not the first time they have added a disclaimer like this. He said a couple of years ago they started reading a statement because of a similar threat back then.