Henrico ends prayer at meetings

Posted at 12:07 AM, Jul 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-12 06:33:12-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - The invocation prayer at the Henrico Board of Supervisors meeting has been a tradition for 35 years. But on June 26, 2012, the Board dropped the opening prayer effective immediately. The decision didn’t sit well with some residents.

“I mean, you start your day off with prayer, so it’s essential”, said Selwin Lorelike, a resident of Henrico county.

“If they're ruling it out completely, then they're not taking the people of Henrico's opinions [into consideration]”, said Henrico County resident Wayne Bush.

County attorney Joseph Rapisarda said plans to drop the prayer were actually spurred by two recent complaints. One complaint from a Muslim resident who was offended when a Baptist minister invoked the words “In Christ’s name we pray” during the June 12 meeting.

The other complaint was from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. According to its website, the foundation's purpose is to separate church and state.

Rapisarda said based on a federal court ruling last year on sectarian prayers at board meetings, the board was faced with three options: a moment of silence, a non-sectarian prayer, or drop the prayer all together. It chose the latter.

Some board members said the vote wasn't easy.

“I feel like if people are praying for me, they ought to be using Jesus' name when they finish praying,” said Henrico Board of Supervisor’s chairman Richard Glover.

Henrico supervisor Tyrone Nelson said dropping the prayer was the right thing to do.

“Any time anybody gets up and speaks up and prays their actions may hurt us a county…we could face a lawsuit, or a fine," Nelson said.