Cache Valley city councils open meetings with prayer
By Ryan M. Monk
December 13, 2006 | CACHE COUNTY -- Fourteen city councils
in Cache Valley regularly hold prayer before each meeting.
Paradise and Trenton councils don't pray, according
to their town clerks, Bev Schiefer and Macall Smith,
respectively. All the other cities that responded --
Hyrum, Millville, Providence, River Heights, North Logan,
Hyde Park, Smithfield, Clarkston, Richmond, Lewiston,
Newton, Wellsville, Nibley, and Logan -- do so. Mendon
and Cornish are not counted in this story because they
could not be reached for comment.
"I don't know why we don't [pray]," said Schiefer.
It wasn't done back when Mayor Lee Atwood was elected
in 1998, she said.
"I think it helps," said Hyrum Mayor Dean Howard.
He feels prayer helps calm and put everyone in a better
state of mind.
When asked if he thinks the practice goes against
the divide of church and state, he said the First Amendment
doesn't say that church and state have to be separate.
The prayers, which are nondenominational, are listed
on Hyrum's agenda as an invocation and come right after
the pledge of allegiance.
"We once had a Boy Scout troop lead us in the pledge
and then give a prayer," said Howard.
The prayers may be listed on the agenda differently
for each town, such as "opening ceremony" for Newton
and Wellsville, or "opening remarks" for River Heights,
but they all follow a similar pattern. They are usually
delegated out to the various council members to do and
"most often they do pray," said City Administrator Skarlet
Bankhead, speaking for Providence. If a guest would
like to lead it or do something different like read
a piece of poetry it has to be approved by the mayor.
In many cities prayer is the standard opening and
something like a moment of silence is the exception
to the rule.
"In my nine years it was always a payer except once,"
said Dean Clegg, city recorder for Smithfield.
Tyler Barnum, 31, a former USU student, was frustrated
with but not surprised that the councils pray. While
growing up in Smithfield he was in Sky View's marching
band, which prayed every time they went out on the field
or got onto the bus. Because it was always someone Mormon
giving the prayer it was always slanted that way, he
said. It made him feel left out because he isn't LDS.
The only way for it to really be nondenominational,
he said, is to make it a moment of silence so everyone
can do their own thing.
Small cities in Cache Valley aren't the only ones
who pray before politics. Since its conception in 1798
every meeting of the United States Senate has opened
with a prayer from the chaplain's office. The current
chaplain (a nonpartisan and nonpolitical office) Barry
C. Black honors the "the historic separation of Church
and State, but not the separation of God and State,"
according to the Senate's Web site, http://www.senate.gov.