First Liberty Institute, a leading religious liberty law firm, recently sent a letter to members of the Cleveland City Council informing them that opening meetings with prayer doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution.
In June, Ward 1 Councilman Joe Jones (pictured above) attempted to renew the practice of beginning council meetings with an invocation, but he faced opposition from some colleagues.
“When I was on council before, each Monday night we had a pastor in to lead us in prayer,” Jones told The Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this year. “I’d like to see that happen again. I think it’s fundamentally important.”
Councilman Basheer Jones agreed that a “prayer would be good,” but said it “has to be in a universal way.”
“When you’re in the majority, whether it’s religion or culture or race … it’s easy to be insensitive,” he added.
“Opening public meetings with prayer is one of the most beloved and long-standing traditions of our republic,” said Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Members of the Cleveland City Council should be confident that opening their sessions with prayer is constitutional. Such prayers are not only lawful, they reflect the very best of traditions of our nation’s long history.”
Like the Ohio House and Senate, the Cleveland City Council began its meetings with a prayer for several years, but now begins with a moment of silence.
Dys recently joined The Todd Starnes Show to discuss the matter, saying the reluctance to begin meetings with a prayer “stems from this misinformation that there is this dividing wall of so-called separation of church and state.”
“That’s kind of scared them off from starting their meetings with public prayer, and so we sent them a letter really just to give them the confidence and courage that that’s something that Cleveland can certainly do,” he continued.
The First Liberty Institute’s full letter can be read here.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Joe Jones” by Cleveland City Council.