CLT Council Prays, Reviews Guidelines Before Meeting

CHARLOTTE, NC — It was a full house at Charlotte City Council Monday as prayer topped the agenda.

All eyes were on council member Kenny Smith, District 6, as he prayed to open up the meeting, a non-denominational, general blessing.

“Help each of us look inward and act outward so that we may make our city and country a better place to live. Amen,” said Smith.

Before the meeting, Monday, the Governance, and Accountability Committee met with city attorneys to discuss how to avoid breaking Constitutional rights of freedom of religion.

“Try to avoid practices that get into proselytizing or denigrating a religion, and just keep in mind, here in the council meeting, it’s a civic ceremonial prayer,” said Senior Assistant City Attorney Jason Kay.

“It’s not an ecclesiastical prayer.”

Last week, council members say the did not pray because they were unsure after a court ruled Rowan County Commissioners should not ask the public to join in and pray prayers specific to one religion.

To see the previous report, click here.

“Our practices don’t go as far as Rowan County and are not therefore unconstitutional,” said City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

Hagemann went on to say that council does not want to coerce the public to participate.

“It is better not to ask the audience to join you in prayer,” said Hagemann. “We should not be directing the audience to stand.”

That’s exactly how the council handled the issue Monday.

The city attorney reminded the council that invocation does not have to be a prayer. It can be a poetry reading, reading of literature or a moment of silence.