Staunton City Council Decides on Invocation Prior to Meetings

By: David Coy Email
By: David Coy Email

STAUNTON -- To pray or not to pray. That was the issue for one Staunton City Council member. A moment of silence last month at the beginning of a meeting had one council member concerned. The longstanding tradition of praying or having an invocation prior to a meeting has been around for generations. Thursday night, council reached a compromise on the issue.

A moment of silence was all that changed at the February 28 Staunton City Council meeting. Prior to its meetings, the council would usually offer an invocation.

Andrea Oakes, who has been offering the invocation for two years, has been the most vocal on this issue.

"This is something that has been on the agenda for generations and it was switched with out our knowledge," said council member Andrea Oakes.

Federal law states that an invocation may be offered prior a meeting. It can not involve any particular deity or advance one religion over another. Staunton City Attorney Doug Guynn tried to express his best interpretation on the laws.

"I didn't write the rules, and some of these rules are even hard for lawyers to discern. Much less folks who haven't studied the law, haven't practiced. For that I'm sorry," said Guynn.

The term "God" was the only term that was used at any invocation prior to the meeting.

"Is God not Jesus Christ? So when you're praying just to God... Who are you praying to?" said council member Ophie Kier.

Overall, the city council didn't see an issue with what it had been doing. No one mentioned any change in the current practice of an invocation or moment of silence.

"We shouldn't even be having this discussion. Nobody wanted to make any change," said Vice Mayor Carol Dull.

The final result of the work session was a 5-2 vote to have a rotating invocation or silence prior to each work session.
Not prior to the actual meeting. Each member of the council will have an opportunity to offer an invocation or time of silence when they are scheduled to offer one.

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