League City residents discuss prayer in council meetings

Residents speak out after mayor receives letter from Wisconsin-based group asking them to stop praying at public meetings

Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:04:25 AM CST   Updated On: Aug 14 2013 07:51:17 AM CDT
LEAGUE CITY, Texas -

League City has started its council meetings with a prayer for the last several decades.  The invocation has a place on the agenda right next to the Pledge of Allegiance and many people at Tuesday night's meeting vowed to keep it that way.

"It just makes me sick with everything that's going on in our country to see people try to take this away from us," said one resident who addressed the crowd Tuesday.

"There's too many Christian values being taken away from us in this country," said David Cohoon.

The residents are passionate about prayer and are speaking out after the city's mayor received a letter from a Wisconsin based group asking them to stop praying at public meetings.

The group, Freedom from Religion Foundation, said it received a complaint from a League City resident and that's why they sent the letter.

"If you wish to pray prior to the meeting, do so on your own time, in your own way," the letter read.  "Do not make it part of the secular business of your local government."

It's the same group that challenged a team of cheerleaders from Kountze, Texas in October 2012.

Mayor Tim Paulissen said most of the people he has heard from are in favor of keeping the meetings they way they are. 

"I'd say out of the 100 or so emails I've only had one that was negative," Paulissen said.

Attorneys with the national non-profit law firm, the Liberty Institute, agreed to represent the city if a lawsuit should arise from this. They spoke at Tuesday's meeting and agreed to draft a written policy on prayer for the city.

"It's absolutely constitutional for a city to open public meetings in prayer," said Jeff Mateer with the Liberty Institute. "For over 200 years legislative bodies have been opening in prayer. There is nothing wrong with continuing a practice it started in 1962."

No one from the Freedom for Religion Foundation was at the city council meeting, but a spokesperson told Local 2 by phone they have no plans to move forward with a lawsuit at this time.  The group hopes League City will reconsider its practices.