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Prayer before Greenville Council meeting called 'unconstitutional'

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GREENVILLE, Pennsylvania - A religious freedom group is calling the traditions of one City council in Mercer County "unconstitutional."

The City Council in Greenville began Tuesday's meeting, just as it does every month, with prayer.

The religious act has been a tradition in the borough for generations but is now coming under fire.

In a letter sent to council from a Religious Freedom group, based out of Wisconsin, the group calls the prayer "unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive." The letter says, "citizens should not be made to feel offended, excluded, or like political outsiders because the local government  they support with their taxes imposes religious ritual at civic government meetings."

Residents at Tuesday's meeting told 21 News they disagree.

"I think it's important to this town because its part of our history in addition to our daily lives," said Greenville Resident Tracy Mohr.

"I see no harm in saying prayer just like the Pastor did tonight, just praying for guidance and direction," said Greenville Resident Amy Hollowell.

According to the letter, "a local complaint brought this matter to their attention."

The complaint stated, "[the] prayers often use phrases such as 'in Jesus' name,' rendering them indisputably Christian."

The group calls this "unconstitutional." They point to a 1983 Supreme Court decision that said, "the prayer opportunity may not be exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other faith or belief."

Greenville Council President Brian Shipley argues that each month a different denominational leader in the Greenville area offers the prayer.

"We don't have a Synagogue, we don't have a Mosque in Greenville," Shipley said. "It's not that they wouldn't be welcome, it's just that they do not exist in the Greenville area, or they would be invited to participate as well."

The group that is bringing issue with the prayer is the same group that threatened to sue the city of Ellwood for having a Nativity Set in front of City Hall. Ellwood residents upset by the threat, placed the Nativity on a trailer, then parked it in the street, saying that way they were not violating any laws.

Greenville's City Council President said he doesn't anticipate council to boycott the prayer any time soon. He said council will discuss the matter with their legal advisor and take it from there.

 

 

 

 

 

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