The Liberty Lake City Council started out its meeting a little differently than it usually does Tuesday.
Instead of the usual prayer a council members says before the meeting is called to order, Mayor Wendy Van Orman started the meeting with a moment of silence.
The departure was part of the council’s later discussion about the invocation. The topic of whether the city should open it up to other faiths began a number of years ago and has since resurrected. The question council members debated Tuesday was whether they should open the invocation to members of the community and other faiths or if they should say a prayer at all.
Saying a prayer isn’t done at a lot of council meetings. The city of Spokane has a place on the agenda for “Words of Inspiration.” The city of Spokane Valley says a prayer, but it has leaders from area churches lead it. In Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Heights, no prayer is said.
“If the city is going to sanction a prayer we have to have a process and have it open to everyone,” said Councilman Josh Beckett.
At previous meetings, one council member said he might be offended if he heard a Wiccan prayer.
“You won’t be able to regulate content,” said City Attorney Sean Boutz. The only time a council could stop a prayer was if it happened to be aggressively advocating one faith over another.
Mayor Wendy Van Orman asked councilmembers what they thought the outcome of the invocation should be. She said prayer is her opportunity to ask for guidance and to ask God to watch over the council and her community.
“God is here to give me wisdom and help with my community,” she said.
“Everybody has different views on it,” Beckett said. He assumed the mayor had asked for strength and wisdom during her time. “I did not. I chose to use my moment of silence differently.”
Councilman David Crump had a different take on the prayer.
“I believe in God,” he said. “I believe in the Heavenly Father. I believe in the Heavenly Mother. What someone would come and say in an invocation I would not fear. I would welcome.”
Members were left with a few options on this topic: they could have no prayer at all, they could have a moment of silence, they could continue with a prayer led by the council, or they could open it up to other faiths with a first come, first served procedure in place.
The council agreed that prayer is a sensitive and emotional topic for many people. With the absence of three council members at Tuesday’s meeting, they wanted to wait for a future meeting to make any decisions.