City of North Kansas City, Mo., Will No Longer Open Meetings With Prayer

After receiving an Oct. 19 letter of complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which works to protect the constitutional separation of church and state, the City Council of North Kansas City, Mo., will no longer pray at its meetings. The Foundation, on behalf of concerned residents and taxpayers in the area, asked the council to immediately end its unconstitutional and illegal practice of opening meetings with the Christian “Lord’s Prayer.”

The Madison, Wis.-based Foundation has over 14,000 freethinking members (atheists and agnostics) nationwide, including 225 members in Missouri.

The Foundation found in a review of council meeting agendas from 2009 that each meeting called for “Repeating in unison, the Lord’s Prayer.” According to some sources, this practice was in place for many years.

According to a Dec. 10 article in Kansas City’s Sun Tribune, the swift decision to halt the prayers resulted from the mayor receiving advice from legal counsel, mirroring that of FFRF’s position, to remove prayer from council meetings completely to avoid any legal challenges.

The last time the council recited the prayer out loud was Oct. 13, the paper said. The council holds business sessions every Tuesday.

Rebecca Kratz, Foundation staff attorney, noted in her letter: “Reciting this prayer at every single council meeting impermissibly advances Christianity and leads a reasonable observer to believe that the council is endorsing not only religion over nonreligion, but also Christianity over other religions.”

The letter pointed out that the prayers violated rulings in major federal cases, including Marsh v. Chambers (1983), which ruled that prayers at government meetings must be nonsectarian and nondenominational.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer at council meetings “inappropriately alienates non-Christians and nonbelievers,” Kratz said. “The constitutional rights of citizens to participate in government meetings should not be predicated upon being subjected to Christian-based prayers.”

The Foundation’s position, said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, is to avoid the problem altogether by eliminating prayer from government meetings.

“Governmental prayer exludes the 15 percent of the U.S. population that is nonreligious,” Gaylor said.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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