Background: The Temple City Council, which is an elected legislative and deliberative public body, has a long-standing practice of opening its meetings with an invocation or prayer. Prayer before deliberative public bodies has been consistently upheld as constitutional by American courts including the United States Supreme Court, most recently in the 2014 case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, as it tends to lend gravity to public business, remind lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and express a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society.
The City Council intends, and has intended in past practice, to adopt a policy that upholds an individual’s “free exercise” rights under the First Amendment. Furthermore, the City Council intends, and has intended in past practice, to adopt a policy that does not proselytize or advance any faith or belief or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others.
No Requirement to Participate: No member of the City Council, city employee, or any other person in attendance at a meeting shall be required to participate in any prayer or invocation that is offered. Everyone will be treated equally in all respects whether they choose to participate, or not participate, in the prayer or invocation.
Prayer or Invocation: The prayer or invocation shall be voluntarily delivered by a minister of an established congregation located within the City of Temple or a layperson who resides within the City of Temple (“speaker”). This opportunity is voluntary, and speakers are free to offer the invocation according to the dictates of his or her own conscience. To maintain a spirit of respect, the City Council requests only that the prayer or invocation opportunity not be exploited as an effort to convert others to the particular faith or belief of the speaker, nor to disparage any faith or belief different from that of the speaker. Speakers are asked to limit their prayers or invocations to two (2) minutes.
Scheduling: Individuals who wish to deliver a prayer or invocation at a Council Meeting are invited to contact the City Secretary for inclusion on the “Prayer or Invocation List.” Prayer and invocation-givers will be scheduled on a rotating basis from the “Prayer or Invocation List”. If the selected speaker does not appear at the scheduled meeting, the Mayor may ask for a volunteer from among the audience to deliver the invocation or prayer. If no member of the audience is available, the Mayor may ask a Councilmember to give the invocation or prayer.
General Provisions: No speaker shall receive compensation for his or her service. The City Secretary shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that a variety of eligible speakers are scheduled for the City Council meetings. Neither the City Council, nor any staff member, may engage in any prior inquiry, review of, or involvement in the content of any prayer or invocation to be offered by any speaker. This policy is not intended and shall not be implemented or construed in any way, to affiliate the City Council with, nor express the City Council’s preference for, any faith, belief, or religious denomination. Rather, this policy is intended to acknowledge and express the City Council’s respect for the diversity of denominations, faiths, and beliefs represented and practiced among the citizens of Temple.