Mayoral candidates support bringing back prayer to City Council

Some say the prayer violates freedom of religion. Others support the traditional process of allowing some form of prayer before meetings.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The new procedure has the Queen City buzzing.

Charlotte City Council put an end to a long-running tradition of starting its meetings with a prayer. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced the move Monday night.

"We are not going to have an invocation this evening," Roberts said Monday. "We are going to change the way we conduct it on the expert advice of our attorney."

Roberts cited concerns over freedom of religion, separation of church and state and lawsuits in other municipalities being the reasons for the change in opening the city council meetings.

A federal court told Rowan County earlier this year to change its opening prayer because almost every prayer they did was of Christianity, which violated religious freedom and tolerance.

Here in Charlotte, people shared mixed opinions.

"How can you have a prayer starting a meeting when you have people of different religions?" said Russell, a resident.

"We're taking God out of classrooms and out of other public settings but you can't take God," said Robin Weaver, a person disappointed with the decision. "God's God. He's present."

"it was odd. we were all caught off guard," Kenny Smith, City Councilman of District 6 told NBC Charlotte. "The city attorney by no means thinks we're on unstable ground and that we are in any shape or form violating federal law or court rulings."

Smith added the city attorney will meet with the Accountability and Governing committee on Monday to further discuss the topic of prayer in relation to the precedent in court.

Vi Lyles weighed in on her Facebook: "I believe the City Council should continue to allow for the expression of prayer based on the guidance of the law."

Whether the prayer comes back when Roberts leaves office remains to be seen. But she says it's possible that city meetings will have a nondenominational invocation or a moment of silence in the future.

"I think that's a good compromise," Weaver said.

"It kind of appeased everybody," Russell said.

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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