The Springfield Board of Mayor and Aldermen has unanimously approved a resolution to adopt a policy, adding an opening prayer prior to the regular monthly meetings of the board.
The board approved the resolution at its Tuesday, May 21 meeting.
Alderman James Hubbard said as long as the prayers stay within a non-biased, political view, he would be supportive of the measure.
The resolution and policy, some six pages long, would allow for a two-minute prayer by religious leaders in the community who volunteer on a first come, first served basis.
The resolution defends the board’s decision by citing cases upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court that recognized the country’s history and tradition of opening sessions of deliberative public bodies with an invocation.
Springfield Assistant City Manager Ryan Martin, who sat in on Monday’s meeting in place of an ill City Manager, Gina Holt, said the entire goal of the plan is to be inclusive.
“We’ve put together and brought before you a very inclusive policy, which is an open invitation to any leaders of congregations locally that would like to deliver an invocation,” Martin said.
According to the new policy, the invocations cannot proselytize or advance any faith, or disparage the religious faith or non-religious view of others.
When the prayer is implemented, a disclaimer will be noted on each agenda that reads:
“Any invocation that may be offered before the official start of the board meeting shall be the voluntary offering of a private citizen to and for the benefit of the board. The views or beliefs expressed by the invocation speaker have not been previously reviewed or approved by the board and do not necessarily represent the religious beliefs or views of the board in part or as a whole. No member of the community is required to attend or participate in the invocation and such decision will have no impact on their right to actively participate in the business of the board.”
The approval of the prayer each month was passed unanimously by the board, 7-0.
The invitation for preachers to participate will be republished in the newspaper in November of each calendar year, according to the policy.
However, Martin said the practice gets underway this calendar year and should be implemented within the next couple of months.