North Carolina City Council Drops Prayer After Atheists Complain

A mayor in North Carolina announced the city council will no longer open meetings with prayer after an anti-religion activist group complained.

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Mebane Mayor Ed Hooks announced a transition from the opening prayer to a moment of silence after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) threatened legal action.

“We normally open up with an invocation,” Hooks said before reading from a statement. “Because of Mebane’s conviction that the diversity of our strongly-held beliefs makes us greater, not weaker. And because of our commitment to show respect to all faiths, beliefs, and perspectives, Mebane’s City Council will no longer open with an invocation.”

The change came after Councilmember Tim Bradley opened the meeting with an invocation, which the FFRF claimed was an unconstitutional act.

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“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive, and the best solution is to discontinue it altogether,” Christopher Line, FFRF attorney, wrote in a letter. “Board members are of course free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way, but they should not worship on taxpayers’ time.”

Line added: “In order to demonstrate the Board’s respect for the diverse range of religious and non-religious citizens living in Mebane, we urge you to concentrate on civil matters and leave religion to the private conscience of each individual by ending the practice of hosting prayers at the Council’s meetings.”

But the city council during a meeting on Jan. 3 decided to resurrect and revise the invocation tradition, Alamance News reports.

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Councilmembers were on both sides of keeping the moment of silence or going back to prayer, and several community members spoke out saying a prayer before the meeting is supported by the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

After hearing from the public, the city council voted unanimously to reconsider the prayer policy at the next meeting scheduled for February 14. The city’s attorney, Lawson Brown, wrote up recommendations for the new policy on prayer.

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