LEAGUE CITY — Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin just as it has the past year. Before the mayor gavels the meeting into session, a local pastor will offer a prayer, then the meeting will be called to order.

Last week’s split U.S. Supreme Court decision that basically said a prayer at the beginning of a government meeting doesn’t violate the Constitution has many on the council wanting to revise that policy.

So, long after the prayer, council members will meet behind closed doors to discuss the possibility of returning the prayer as an official part of council meetings.

Last summer when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the city saying that allowing a prayer before a council meeting was “coercive and beyond the authority of any government,” the council kept prayers as the official part of the meeting.

When there were some threats of possible legal action, the city revised the policy to continue with the prayer, but has done so before the official start of the meeting.

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.

“We are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the practice of opening governmental meetings in prayer, as our founders did over 200 years ago,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Liberty Institute. “Saying prayers at governmental meetings will remain uninterrupted.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation did not issue a statement on the Court’s decision.

Mayor Tim Paulissen said as soon as the Supreme Court rendered its decision, in which the New York township of Greece was sued for its prayer policy, he and others on the council wanted to explore what affect, if any, the ruling would have on League City’s policy.

Paulissen said that the council would meet in executive session, in large part, because a San Antonio man has threatened to sue the city concerning its policy.

But also, the council will seek legal advice on whether or not the Liberty Institute’s offer to defend the city will stand should the policy be switched back.

The mayor said he didn’t need a Supreme Court decision to express what the city’s desire has always been.

“I was never a proponent of getting (the court’s) opinion,” Paulissen said. “I already had my opinion, the (residents) of our town spoke loudly about having prayer at our meetings.”

Still, the high Court’s decision had Paulissen feeling “vindicated.”

“I would say that I am a little discouraged by the opinion because it went down (ideological) lines five — conservatives versus four liberals,” Paulissen said.

“To me, this is rooted all the way back to the country’s history. It is a shame that our Supreme Court is looking at this as partisan politics.”

Councilwoman Geri Bentley, too, was disappointed by the split decision, but was in favor of the decision.

“I think it is a step back to what our Founding Fathers wanted,” Bentley said. “I am happy to see that (the Court) is looking at that and going back in that direction again.”

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

By T.J. AULDS

The Daily News

LEAGUE CITY

Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin just as it has the past year. Before the mayor gavels the meeting into session, a local pastor will offer a prayer, then the meeting will be called to order.

Last week’s split U.S. Supreme Court decision that basically said a prayer at the beginning of a government meeting doesn’t violate the Constitution has many on the council wanting to revise that policy.

So, long after the prayer, council members will meet behind closed doors to discuss the possibility of returning the prayer as an official part of council meetings.

Last summer when the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the city saying that allowing a prayer before a council meeting was “coercive and beyond the authority of any government,” the council kept prayers as the official part of the meeting.

When there were some threats of possible legal action, the city revised the policy to continue with the prayer, but has done so before the official start of the meeting.

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.

“We are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the practice of opening governmental meetings in prayer, as our founders did over 200 years ago,” said Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of Liberty Institute. “Saying prayers at governmental meetings will remain uninterrupted.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation did not issue a statement on the Court’s decision.

Mayor Tim Paulissen said as soon as the Supreme Court rendered its decision, in which the New York township of Greece was sued for its prayer policy, he and others on the council wanted to explore what affect, if any, the ruling would have on League City’s policy.

Paulissen said that the council would meet in executive session, in large part, because a San Antonio man has threatened to sue the city concerning its policy.

But also, the council will seek legal advice on whether or not the Liberty Institute’s offer to defend the city will stand should the policy be switched back.

The mayor said he didn’t need a Supreme Court decision to express what the city’s desire has always been.

“I was never a proponent of getting (the court’s) opinion,” Paulissen said. “I already had my opinion, the (residents) of our town spoke loudly about having prayer at our meetings.”

Still, the high Court’s decision had Paulissen feeling “vindicated.”

“I would say that I am a little discouraged by the opinion because it went down (ideological) lines five — conservatives versus four liberals,” Paulissen said.

“To me, this is rooted all the way back to the country’s history. It is a shame that our Supreme Court is looking at this as partisan politics.”

Councilwoman Geri Bentley, too, was disappointed by the split decision, but was in favor of the decision.

“I think it is a step back to what our Founding Fathers wanted,” Bentley said. “I am happy to see that (the Court) is looking at that and going back in that direction again.”

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(1) comment

Lars Faltskog

Well, I can say that my belief as a citizen regarding this issue has metamorphasized. I used to think that prayers in a public place were unnecessary, anticlimatic, and can be offensive to some.

But, I've actually changed direction and I realize now that we need every prayer we can get. Heck, maybe someone can do an inspirational song as well. If someone doesn't whoever's praying, then they can stare into space until it's over. No harm done, there's better things to worry about. Nothing wrong as long as the municipality eventually gets down to business.

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