No harm in prayers at City Council

Idaho State Journal Editorial

It’s a stretch to say that a brief prayer heard before each Pocatello City Council meeting violates the Constitutional separation between church and state, as some non-believers contend. All the deliberations and decisions by the council are secular, not religious, in nature.
That being said, the council might do well to make it clear its prayer policy is nondenominational, and pastors, bishops or even the unchurched may deliver a message to open the council meeting. The city entertains requests to Mayor Brian Blad from spiritual leaders interested in offering the prayer, and that is the extent of local government involvement.
It appears the student organization which is objecting to the prayers may be looking for a cause. The students recently have organized under the name of Freethinkers, Atheists and Agnostics for Religious Tolerance and claim backing of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They are entitled to their views, but it raises an interesting question: Since they receive and spend student funds, is that a possible conflict?
The city attorney has advised the municipal body it may continue with the prayers, should it please. It’s fair to say City Council members hold their own views about religion, but most are wise enough to keep them private, as they should.
“Where’s the harm,” asks Councilman Roger Bray, himself a pastor.
There is no harm.