Mass. City Council Moves To Discontinue Lord’s Prayer

A Massachusetts city council seems ready to discontinue its practice of opening meetings with the Lord’s prayer.

After receiving complaints from a local interfaith group and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Lowell City Council is moving toward a policy allowing for only nonsectarian prayer.

City Solicitor Christine O’Connor also presented the council members with a legal memo on the subject. At an early March meeting, O’Connor said the council could stop praying before meetings, open the meetings with a moment of silence or use a nonsectarian prayer, reported the Lowell Sun.

A subcommittee of the council later decided to recommend nonsectarian invocations, and the full council unanimously accepted the report. Formal adoption of the new policy is expected in 60 days.

In a March 5 letter, Americans United argued that allowing for any sectarian prayer would be constitutionally suspect. AU cited U.S. Supreme Court and other federal court precedent.

AU’s letter observed, "The Lord’s Prayer is an exclusively Christian prayer drawn from the New Testament. Therefore, regardless of whether it is a ‘beautiful prayer,’ as Councilor Edward Caulfield declared in November, the Council is clearly prohibited from reciting it or any other sectarian prayer at meetings and from inviting others to do so."

AU’s Massachusetts Chapter President Ron Madnick attended the Lowell meetings and encouraged the city to change its prayer policy.