Wednesday, April 17, 2013

South Dakota City Opts For No Formal Prayer Policy In Face Of Challenge

The Rapid City (SD) Journal reports on the response of Rapid City Council to objections that have been raised to its invocation policy. In January, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to Council asking it to end its tradition of opening Council meetings with an invocation. Council responded at its Feb. 4 meeting by voting to continue to have an invocation and asking the city attorney to draft a formal written policy on the issue. On Feb. 15, FFRF wrote another letter (full text) setting out its legal position. In a Memo to the Mayor and Council dated April 3 (full text), city attorney Joel Landeen suggested elements of a policy that would strengthen the city's legal position: Move the invocation before the meeting formally starts and limit the time of those delivering it; formalize an inclusive process for selecting those who will deliver the invocation; state that the invocation should be non-sectarian and that it should not be used to proselytize or disparage other religions. By a unanimous vote, however, City Council last Monday chose instead to adopt no policy and remain in the position of defending its traditional informal invocation policy. It also agreed in an 8-2 vote that in June it will consider offers by outside organizations that have volunteered to help it with its legal defense if FFRF files suit.