Texas Town Revises Sectarian Prayer Policy

Under pressure from civil liberties groups, a Texas town has adopted a new policy intended to diversify prayers offered before council meetings.

 

Americans United and the Texas ACLU wrote a letter advising the San Marcos City Council that invocations at government meetings must be nonsectarian. Between September 2008 and May 2009, 12 out of 13 council meetings began with Christian prayers.

 

The new policy requires the city clerk to set up a clergy rotation list for invocations and “make a concerted effort to include clergy from all faith traditions.” The policy makes it clear that it is a “privilege and not a right” to offer an invocation, and that privilege cannot be “exploited to advance any one religion, disparage any other religion or to proselytize.” Any clergy member who violates the new rules may be removed from the list.

 

At the council’s Aug. 6 meeting, the Rev. Paul Buntyn gave the invocation. According to Newstreamz San Marcos, he urged council members “not to make a stand to eliminate prayer altogether.”

 

Americans United will continue to monitor how the San Marcos plan is put in place.

 

“There is a process that was set up, so I’m glad to hear there was some movement,” said AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. But he warned, “Some movement does not necessarily resolve this.”