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Fighting back: Phoenix residents push to reinstate prayer at city council meetings

PHOENIX — A new battlefront in the war on religion has emerged over the presence of spoken prayer at Phoenix City Council meetings.

Within two weeks of the council’s vote to change the decades-old tradition of holding an opening invocation to a moment of silence, there is a proposal to bring it back.

Two residents turned in a petition Wednesday, calling for the prayer to be restored. The council must respond to their request within 15 days.

“A group of citizens presented a petition to ask us to vote on it again and as is our charter duty we will do so,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said. “So that item will come before the council again.”

The council originally voted to do away with spoken prayer after a Satanist group requested to give the invocation. City attorneys advised the council they could not bar the group from delivering the prayer unless prayer was done away with all together.

Stanton said the moment of silence at Wednesday’s city council meeting seemed to work as an acceptable alternative. The mayor said he is frustrated the council is still spending time on this issue when they should be debating other policy issues.

“We can pray silently, you can pray out loud, I respect everyone and their personal faith traditions but I don’t want to get distracted (from other issues),” he said.

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