FFRF successfully intervened to halt religious invocations prior to council meetings in Columbia Borough, Pa.
A concerned resident of the town contacted FFRF to report the Columbia Borough Ad Hoc Committee meetings repeatedly opened with an invocation, led by a council member. The practice began in November 2021, wherein the council member would request all attendees stand before being led in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.
“Prayer at government meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive,” FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to the Columbia Borough Council President Heather Zink. “We write to request that the Ad Hoc Committee and Borough Council refrain from opening meetings with prayer and instead solemnize meetings with the much more inclusive practice of observing a moment of silence.”
FFRF received an email response from Zink addressing the situation. “The Columbia Borough Council discussed this and we agree the leader of the ad-hoc committee should not have led a meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. All committee chairs have been advised they (or any member of their board) cannot lead any invocation at their meetings.” Additionally, Zink confirmed that meetings are now opened by asking if any attendees would like to deliver an invocation. There are no restrictions on who can deliver an invocation, except that it may not be by a member of the board.