Should prayer continue before Rowlett City Council meetings?
ROWLETT — There's a big controversy in the small town of Rowlett, where a lot is being said these days about a few words that are spoken before each City Council meeting.
“I am an agnostic atheist. I don’t know if there is a god, but I see no reason to believe in one,” explained Chad Aldridge, who is one of several non-believers on a sort of crusade against the prayers that precede Council confabs.
"It’s very simple: Just give us a moment of silence. You can pray during that moment of silence or not,” he said.
But Rowlett Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Michael Gallops said that idea would never get his blessing.
"If I can help it, it is not going to change," he said.
Gallops acknowledges one of the reasons the prayers chagrin some is that they have traditionally been conducted by Christian leaders. But he said the city’s policy invites leaders of all faiths to participate.
"Our policy itself hasn’t been reviewed by the Supreme Court or the circuit courts, but the idea behind our policy has," Gallops said.
Pastor Shane Pruitt of the Community Connection Church frequently conducts the ritual. He said it’s very generic, and that there’s certainly no design on converting anyone.
“We’re definitely not preaching one way or the other, and I am definitely not sharing like I would in my church," the clergyman said.
Pruitt said he offers up the same kind of prayer you’d hear at Council meetings in many cities. "So I really do not know why it has become an issue here," he said.
Pruitt points out that every time the invocation is given, so is a disclaimer — those who don’t believe don’t have to participate.