South Carolina council drops prayer, adds silence.
In early February, the Oconee County Council voted 4-1 to begin its sessions with a moment of silence and discontinue its longtime practice of offering prayers in Jesus' name, The Greenville News reported.
The action came after the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State complained about the prayer practice. A powerful Religious Right organization, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), also got involved in the conflict, urging the council to adopt a policy allowing ministers to pray before the meetings.
On Feb. 6, the date of the vote, the council meeting was opened with a local Baptist minister giving a prayer in Jesus' name. Following his invocation, the Greenville newspaper reported, Roger Rollin, an Americans United member, stood and gave a secular invocation.
The council then went into a closed-door session to discuss the situation. The decision to spurn ADF's policy and opt for a moment of silence did not set well with some in attendance.
"I pray for what has been unleashed on this county today," Marly Ellenburg said during a public comment period. "I pray for God's mercy."