Charlotte reinstates prayer at meetings

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - After a week of confusion for Charlotte city leaders, prayer is back inside the Charlotte council chambers.

"Heavenly Father, we live in uncertain times," council member Kenny Smith prayed at the start of Monday's meeting. "There's great tension in our city and country…"

The prayer started off the night, just one week after Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced there would no longer be prayer in meetings.

"I think it gave a great opportunity for us to revisit and look at our practice," City Attorney Bob Hagemann said.

Hagemann addressed last week's back and forth at the council Monday night. There was discussion among the council about recent court cases regarding invocations in government meetings but many council members say there was never any real decision or vote to stop doing it.

"Our practices don't go as far as Rowan County's, and are not therefore unconstitutional," Hagemann said.

With the swift return of prayer Monday night, Hagemann laid out guidelines for council.

"What we don't want to do is treat anybody in the audience in a way like they feel like they are being coerced to participate in something they don't believe in," he told them.

Hagemann asked council members to lead the invocations, but to be sure not to ask the crowd to join or tell them to stand.

All that led to Mayor Roberts cancelling her week-old announcement, working to make things clear again.

"The invocation is a personal expression by the member, intended to solemnize our proceedings," Roberts said Monday. "It is not an endorsement of any particular religious belief."

Now, the tradition continues in Charlotte.

"I ask that you bestow your wisdom upon us," Smith's continued in his prayer. "And help each of us look inward, and act outward, so that we may make our city, and country, a better place to live. Amen."

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