Charlotte City Council puts prayer back on meeting agenda

- Prayer at Charlotte City Council meetings is up for discussion again. Last week, the mayor of Charlotte said prayer would no longer lead their meetings. This Monday, a special committee came together to make a decision.

The Governance and Accountability Committee – together with the city attorney and senior assistant city attorney - talked about prayer and if it's constitutional to start a city council meeting with an invocation.

"Prayer is historically a long-accepted practice in this country that actually goes back to the congressional session that approved the first amendment," said Jason Kay, senior assistant city attorney.

That’s the amendment that protects free speech.

On September 18, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said they would no longer open city council meetings with prayer.

In an email to council members, she explained her decision.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the Rowan County's Board of Commissioners violated the constitution with their quote "coercive" prayer practices.

Roberts says she made the call based on the court's decision and the city attorney's advice.

"Despite the confusion last week - and I'll take some responsibility for that - I had advised the mayor and council that a no-invocation practice would be 100 percent legally safe. I think it was interpreted as an implication that an invocation practice is not legally safe," said Bob Hagemann, city attorney.

The city attorney and his senior assistant went on to explain they're confident city council is doing things right when it comes to beginning meetings with prayer.

The committee's decision was to make no decision at all. Prayer is back on the agenda for September 25 and that's where they're leaving it for now.

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