CUYAHOGA FALLS: Whether a U.S. Supreme Court decision green lighting sectarian prayer at government meetings will affect Cuyahoga Falls City Council meetings remains to be seen.
Council President Mary Ellen Pyke said she never doubted that invoking God at the beginning of a public meeting was not in violation of the Constitution.
Ward 8 councilman Terry Mader, who was appointed chaplain in January, opened each regular meeting with an overtly Christian prayer until March.
The practice stopped after Pyke received a letter from the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation denouncing the sectarian prayer.
Residents packed a council committee meeting in March when the issue was debated.
Since the meeting, Pyke invited local clergy to give the invocation during some meetings.
Mader still continues to recite a prayer invoking Jesus during some meetings.
The Supreme Court decision centered on clergy invoking Christian prayers before government meetings in Greece, N.Y.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the 5-4 majority, wrote “the town’s prayer does not violate the Establishment [of religion] clause.”
He called the prayer part of the nation’s heritage and tradition and concluded that the intended audience was the governing body and not members of the community who may be in attendance.
Although the facts in the Supreme Court case seem to mirror Cuyahoga Falls, Pyke said she plans to talk to the city’s law director to see what, if any, changes need to made.
“It would be wrong of me to say anything right now because I have not read [the decision] and have not talked to our law director,” she said.
Pyke acknowledged that council members represent a diverse population.
“If the law director says what we are doing is fine, then it will continue,” she said. “If he says we have to change, we have to sit back, re-evaluate what we’re doing and make changes.”