HOUSTON—In League City, a pledge and a prayer have always started city council meetings. But last fall, a group from Wisconsin, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, complained that League City’s council prayer was divisive and violated the separation of church and state.
“I didn’t take it seriously,” said League City Mayor Timothy Paulissen. “I wasn’t going to drop the ball and stop doing prayer.”
What the council did do was move their prayer right before the meeting gaveled to order, so it wasn’t officially part of the agenda. Mayor Paulissen hopes to change that back Tuesday night.
“It’s rooted all the way back to the founding of our country,” said Mayor Paulissen.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, ruling in another similar case out of New York, that starting council meetings with a prayer does not violate the Constitution.
“What I felt all along, that it’s appropriate, it’s not exclusionary,” said Mayor Paulissen. “I’ve had overwhelming support. I haven’t had anybody in the city of League City that ever complained about the prayer.”
Folks we found in town Tuesday backed that up.
“Absolutely, I think it helps focus the group and remind them that their purpose is to serve the people and I think it’s a great way to start a meeting,” said League City resident Carole Rieckert.
Brent Orender added, “I believe it’s very appropriate. Because I believe we were founded upon Christian beliefs.”
“Those that don’t agree with it can just be quiet for a few minutes and then go on. It’s not harmful. It’s beneficial,” said resident Therese Lewis.
On Tuesday night, they voted in favor of prayer at city council meetings.
The mayor also told KHOU 11 News that right now they only allow religious leaders from League City to lead the council prayers and city staff haven’t found any non-Christian religious groups within the city.
But they say if any come forward from surrounding communities, they would consider letting those folks lead a different kind of prayer.