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League City council says amen to prayers at meetings - The Galveston County Daily News : News

October 19, 2014

League City council says amen to prayers at meetings

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Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:15 am | Updated: 10:41 am, Fri May 30, 2014.

Praying is now back as part of League City council meetings.

In a 7-1 vote Tuesday, the City Council approved changing its policy and will allow prayers to be an official part of its meetings.

Last fall, the council adopted a policy to allow a prayer before the official start of its council meetings.

The move was made after Freedom From Religion Foundation questioned the city’s policy of allowing prayer to be part of its official proceedings.

There also were some threats of legal action concerning the city’s prayer policy.

The Liberty Institute, a Plano-based nonprofit law firm that regularly takes up religious issues, helped the city draft the ordinance. The group also offered to defend the city at no cost, should anyone sue.

After the U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled that prayers at governmental meetings did not violate the U.S. Constitution, Mayor Tim Paulissen quickly moved to return prayers as an official part of City Council meetings.

First, the council met in executive session.

Part of the closed-door council session Tuesday was to get advice from City Attorney Arnold Palonco on the Supreme Court decision and to find out if Liberty Institute would stand by the city if it changed its policy again.

With confirmation that the group would, indeed, pick up the legal fight for the city, Paulissen said the decision was easy.

The old policy “was too up-and-down and cumbersome,” Paulissen said. “I’d have to ask everybody to stand up to do the prayer, and then I’d have to tell everybody to sit back down, and then I’d call roll and then have the pledges and have everybody stand up again.

“Now it is going to be all uniformed. It will be a lot more fluid.”

The council also approved allowing the prayer to be listed as an item on its council agendas.

The revised ordinance includes language from the Supreme Court decision in the Town of Greece (N.Y.) v. Galloway, as backing for the revised policy.

The court’s decision supported the council in what it already knew — that prayer in meetings was right, Councilwoman Heidi Thiess said.

“I’m very, very proud of our mayor with moving with such (speed) on the issue and bringing it up on the very next opportunity,” Thiess said.

Paulissen said the new policy will be in effect for the next council session, which is in two weeks.

“Rather than having two separate parts separating our prayer from (the meeting), its better,” Councilwoman Geri Bentley said. “It’s as we had done for years, so I think it is a good thing.”

Only Councilman Dan Becker voted against the measure. He left the council chambers before The Daily News could ask him about his opposing vote.

Paulissen indicated that Becker believed that the system was working fine as it was and that a change wasn’t necessary.