Phoenix City Council votes to bring prayer back to meetings

March 2, 2016
Arizona Republic
Dustin Gardiner

Phoenix City Council members voted 7-2 Wednesday to restore a spoken prayer at council meetings, but the invocation would have to be given exclusively by chaplains for the police and fire departments.

That vote is the latest twist in a fiery debate that began after a group of Satanists were scheduled to give the opening prayer at a council meeting in February.

Rather than let followers of the Satanic Temple pray, the council voted last month to replace the invocation with a "moment of silent prayer and reflection." City leaders said Phoenix would have faced a costly lawsuit if it kept holding a prayer and rejected the Satanist's request to pray, as some council members advocated.

But the decision to replace the spoken prayer with a moment of silence has since drawn protests from some council members, residents and religious leaders. They said the city's move was akin to banning prayer and gave the Satanists a victory.

On Wednesday, the council had to reconsider that decision after two residents submitted a petition calling for the council to reinstate the invocation. Councilman Jim Waring motioned that the council approve the petition with an amendment requiring that the prayer be given by the city's police or fire chaplains.

But the vote was not the final decision. Council members must now vote on specific ordinance language reflecting the rule change, which is expected to happen in a few weeks.

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