A Virginia city’s attempt to make its public council meetings more inclusive got off to a rocky start in July when audience members prayed aloud during a new moment of silence.
With a new mayor and two new council members, Radford city officials agreed in a 4-1 vote to replace the religious invocation at the start of their meetings with a nondenominational, inspirational statement and a moment of silence.
“We want to set a tone for our meetings that everyone is welcome here, no matter what your faith is,” new Councilwoman Naomi Huntington said on July 3, according to the Roanoke Times. “By having a moment of reflection, it allows you to worship or not worship and reflect on what you believe is appropriate at the time in your own way.”
“While we’re talking about being more inclusive, it’s not just people of all denominations. There are some people that could be agnostic or atheist and we represent them as well,” said newly elected Councilwoman Julie Critterton. “Those who wish to pray, we certainly don’t want to take that away from them. But we just want to make sure that everyone has that moment to center and balance themselves in a way they feel is appropriate.”
The new mayor, David Horton, delivered the first inspirational message at the July 9 meeting; he reflected on the recent Independence Day holiday and the sacrifices of veterans to defend American freedoms, according to the Times.
But apparently that wasn’t inspirational enough for some Radford residents. When Horton called for the moment of silence, about eight people stood up and loudly recited the Lord’s Prayer.