On Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, the night that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, the Staunton City Council will take a vote regarding whether or not they will continue to open their meetings with an invocation.
Writing at Bearing Drift, Lynn R. Mitchell says, The non-sectarian prayer has traditionally opened their meetings; that is, until February 28, when Mayor Lacy King noted they would observe a moment of silence instead of the usual prayer which caught city council members off guard.
Councilwoman Andrea Oakes told the Staunton News Leader "The council needs spiritual guidance in order to guide or conscience. And you certainly need to have a conscience when you're dealing with issues like city budget."
When public prayer has been challenged legally, federal courts have ruled that prayers to begin a meeting do not violate anyone's rights as long as the prayers do not favor one religion over another.
City Attorney Doug Guynn will give a legal briefing to the City Council prior to the vote.
Mitchell quotes Liberty University professor Dr. Kurt Michael as saying “This is not an issue of church and state. This is just another example of a few people trying to remove God from the public square. It is my understanding that a moment of silence is usually done in remembrance of people who have died. I hope the council members will remember that God is alive and well.”
Last July, the Henrico County Board of Supervisors dropped the opening prayer from their meetings based on a complaint filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based advocacy group.
As American society becomes more and more secularly, there is no doubt that legal challenges such as these will continue.
But the symbolism of the Staunton City Council taking this vote on the night Christians are preparing to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ cannot be overlooked.