Charlotte Mayor: City meetings will no longer open with prayer

Charlotte Mayor: City meetings will no longer open with prayer

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced Monday evening that Charlotte City Council will no longer be opening their meetings with a prayer.

The council was meeting Monday for a zoning meeting and Roberts said the decision regarding prayer was finalized during an earlier dinner meeting.

The meetings that usually open with a prayer, will now open with the pledge of allegiance. Roberts cited a previous court ruling as the reason why the prayer would be going away.

WBTV obtained a copy of an email sent from Charlotte City Attorney Robert Hagemann to Roberts and the members of the Charlotte City Council.

Hagemann's email references a United States 4th Circuit court ruling that declared prayer led by elected officials as a violation of the First Amendment. In the email, Hagemann notes that the court decision also applies to the city of Charlotte.

"The council consulted with our attorney again tonight and believed it would be wise in light of that ruling to go straight to the pledge and not have an invocation," Roberts said.

Roberts noted that the council had recently had a couple of meetings that opened with a secular invocation. However, Roberts said the elected leaders decided that out of an abundance of caution that it would be best to do away with the prayer.

She said she wants all citizens who are attending the meetings to feel comfortable.

"We want them to all feel comfortable coming to our meeting and it's clear from other rulings, other cases, that some people when there is an invocation that invokes a certain religion, people are asked to stand and honor that religion, they're not comfortable with that," said Roberts.

She said she would be open to re-instating a nondenominational prayer before meetings if the council got enough feedback from the general public asking that such a prayer be instituted.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.