Cleveland City Council’s Sectarian Prayers Draw Fire

Americans United has warned the Cleveland City Council to stop violating the law by consistently opening meetings with sectarian prayers.

This is the third time Americans United has sent a letter to the council over this matter. AU first wrote to the council on March 3, 2009. When that letter was ignored, the group followed with another on June 4.

In response to AU’s second letter, Patricia Britt, clerk of the council, defended the prayer practice and insisted that sectarian prayers are permissible.

AU’s third and most recent letter insists that Britt’s analysis is wrong.

“We write to you a third time,” AU said, “to demonstrate that the Council is thoroughly mistaken about the law governing legislative prayer, to point out that the Council has, for years, overwhelmingly featured Christian prayer-givers, and to request, again, that the Council end its practice of allowing sectarian prayer and that the Council invite a more diverse array of prayer-givers to offer the opening prayer.”

The letter notes that from Jan. 8, 2007, until Oct. 19, 2009, there have been 79 council meetings featuring prayer, and 77 times the prayer-giver was Christian.

AU’s letter includes a long list of clergy from a variety of other traditions in the greater Cleveland area.

“Surely,” the letter asserts, “even the barest effort could secure clergy from one of these traditions more than once or twice per year.”