Council Nixes Suggestion To Start Meetings With Prayer
The Casper City Council informally decided to not start its regular meetings with prayer during a work session Tuesday.
The council was responding to a request from a man at the May 3 regular meeting asking it to turn to God for help.
"What you guys do, making all these decisions is very hard, and I know from my past experience I made a lot of mistakes making decisions until I turned to God and asked him to lead me," Dale Zimmerle said.
"So I'm going to ask you guys to consider opening your meetings with prayer and asking God for guidance in what you do, because everybody sees it, and everybody can see the Lord's hand in everything," Zimmerle said. He unsuccessfully applied for the council seat vacated last year by Craig Hedquist.
He recognized some council members might think they can't mix religion and state affairs, but Congress and the Wyoming Legislature open with prayer, and the dollar bill has "In God We Trust," he said. "Let's take that to heart. Let's trust in God to give us the guidance we need to do what's best for all of us."
During Tuesday's work session, council didn't take it to heart, but they did take it under consideration.
The majority of council members decided against it.
Mayor Daniel Sandoval said Christians aren't supposed to make a public display of their piety, and the founders of the nation understood the importance of a secular government.
"There's a lot of confusion between politics and religion," he said. "It's really very simple, and that is If I care about what I do, that's religion. If I care about what others do, that's politics."
Shawn Johnson said he disagreed, but didn't want to go into a debate.
Charlie Powell said opposition to opening with prayer could be inferred as opposition to God, but he agreed with Sandoval about the need for piety to remain private.
Wayne Heili said he wouldn't mind a prayer, but a moment of silence would be okay, too.
Sandoval said opening with prayer could complicate council's work, and there are possible problems including litigation.
There's also the matter of free access and equal treatment of who prays about what, such as what happens if the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., shows up, he said.
"The only fair government that represents everybody, even atheists, is a secular government," he said.