MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF/AP) - Myrtle Beach City Council has approved a standard prayer to be offered at public meetings.
"Council's goal was to make sure we still had prayer at the beginning of the meeting asking for that guidance. They didn't want to go to a moment of silence. They didn't want to eliminate prayer altogether. The courts have ruled that legislative prayer is acceptable as long as it's a non-denominational sort of thing that it doesn't favor one religion over another."
Myrtle Beach Public Information Officer Mark Kruea said in the past, clergymen from various deities would come in and recite a prayer. Although it was frowned upon, the clergymen would often focus on a specific religion.
"City Council has always opened the meetings with a prayer. We asked the ministerial association to send one of the local clergy for years to do a prayer. Sometimes they weren't available, sometime the prayers were too sectarian… in other words they promoted one religion over another, so we were looking for a better solution."
Recent efforts made by the American Civil Liberties Union to sue legislative bodies who continued to practice sectarian prayer is one reason Kruea said the new prayer was passed.
ACLU Spokesperson Victoria Middleton said, "anytime our elected officials take steps to ensure that they're complying with the First Amendment, it's good for our communities and it's a positive thing."
The prayer approved Tuesday is designed to include people of all faiths, and reads:
Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of all that is or will ever be, accept our profound gratitude for this day, and all of its blessings of life and freedom. We remember those who make our freedom possible. It is because of their sacrifice that our community can practice our shared and enduring values of varied expressions of faith, civic duty and respect for all.
We gather today to render our public service in a proper manner, and perform our civic duties in good order. Therefore, we solemnly invoke Divine wisdom and guidance for this Council in this day's meeting.
City attorney Tom Ellenburg says some members of the clergy did not like being told how to pray.
But Ellenburg says a government cannot give preference to religious practices and allowing someone to call on a specific deity does that.
Some council members did not like the idea of adopting a standard invocation, but agreed they did not want to be sued. The referendum was passed with a unanimous vote.