Tega Cay City Council not adding prayer to open meetings - | WBTV Charlotte

Tega Cay City Council not adding prayer to open meetings

TEGA CAY, SC (WBTV) -

The issue of a prayer being heard at the start of council meetings was debated Monday night in Tega Cay.

The Tega Cay City Council will continue to open meetings with a call to order, the Pledge of Allegiance and a Moment of Silence. 

Monday, the council discussed replacing that moment of silence with prayer, but decided to keep things the way they are.

The council discussed the possibly of adding prayer to the beginning of its meeting after a ruling earlier this month by the Supreme Court on the issue.

The court, in a 5-to-4 ruling on May 5, said those prayers don't violate the Constitution -- even if they routinely emphasize Christianity -- as long as there's no effort to proselytize or to denigrate non-Christians.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said the prayers are ceremonial, and in keeping with the nation's traditions. He wrote that they are designed to "acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent," and not to "exclude or coerce nonbelievers."

Tega Cay mayor George Sheppard said that, since the ruling, he wanted to broach the subject with other members of council and the community.

According to Sheppard, the York County Council currently opens its meetings with a prayer and so do other city and town councils in the area.

Sheppard says he feels the issue is a big enough topic that he'd like the entire council to weigh in on the issue. He'd also wanted to hear from members of the community.

As part of the discussion Sheppard says the council would need to discuss how the possible prayer would be implemented into the meetings.

One option would be for members of the council to lead the prayer. Another option would include asking ministers from local religious organizations to come in to host the prayer during the regular monthly council meeting.

Councilwoman Dottie Hersey says she's on the record in the past being opposed to the idea of prayer during meetings.

"It was discussed a couple of years back, because I wanted to spare the City from becoming embroiled in a debate or worse - a lawsuit," Hersey told WBTV. "Given the recent US Supreme Court ruling, I am now open to discussion on the topic."

Hersey said she would reserve judgement for whether she would vote for or against it based on how the City intends to implement prayer.

WBTV reached out to all four council members for their opinion.

The Supreme Court ruling was based on a case in Greece, New York, where nearly every council meeting over an 11-year span opened with prayers that stressed Christianity.

The town has few non-Christian places of worship.

The ruling was consistent with one from 1983, when the court upheld an opening prayer in the Nebraska legislature and said prayer is part of the nation's fabric, not a violation of the First Amendment.

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow decision, the residents who challenged the council prayers in Greece said they'll continue to push the board to be more inclusive as it schedules people to deliver the prayers.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, meanwhile, has announced a contest to recognize the best secular "invocations" delivered at government meetings.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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