Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Principles for new policy on prayer, as recommended by Mebane city attorney Lawson Brown


In a background memo for city council members, Mebane city attorney Lawson Brown outlined the principles that should be included in any policy that Mebane’s city council should adopt if restoring a public prayer at the beginning of its monthly meetings.

Brown said he based his recommendations on the court case involving Rowan County commissioners, whose practice of having commissioners offer the prayer was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“First, the prayer practice, if adopted, must be open to all religions.

“Second, the prayer should be given by invited clergy.

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“Third, the prayer should be given at the outset of the meeting to solemnize the work of the Council.

“Fourth, the praying clergy or other speaker, should not proselytize, or coerce participation by any persons in attendance.

“Finally, there should be no evidence that attendees will be treated differently by the Council if attendees decline to attend or participate during the prayer “portion” of the meeting.

“Any adopted policy should contain five tenets.

“First, the purpose of the prayer should be articulated: to solemnize the meeting. “Second, the policy should state the types of prayers (i.e., to solemnize the actions of the Council) and prayers are not to proselytize a particular faith.

“Third, it needs to be clear that members of the public are free to leave during
such time.

“Fourth, the policy should be clear that no one will be treated differently by the Council in its consideration of all matters, on any basis as a result of the prayer.

“Finally, the policy should include a description of the process the City uses in selecting those providing the prayer or invocation.”

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