The Arroyo Grande City Council handled the often-thorny issue of public prayer expeditiously and with minimal controversy this week when it opted to suspend spoken invocations and switch to a moment of silence at council meetings.
We believe that was a wise course of action, and we commend the council for not belaboring the issue.
There is a long tradition of starting public meetings with a spoken prayer, but that can alienate attendees who don’t share beliefs espoused in the invocation. Efforts to make prayer nondenominational and to invite a variety of speakers — including agnostics and atheists — to take turns giving invocations can mitigate that.
But is it really the job of city officials to “police” prayer to ensure that guidelines are followed and that people of all faiths and beliefs have a turn at the podium? We don’t believe so.
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The moment of silence is an excellent compromise. It acknowledges the importance of the proceedings and provides the opportunity for attendees to pray silently if they so desire — or to gather their thoughts if they don’t.
Mayor Jim Hill put it this way: “I believe in separation of church and state, but believe in a calming introduction to the meeting. A change in policy is well advised at this point.”