Clawson Replaces Invocation with “Words of Inspiration”
(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 22, 2020)
Clawson, MI – As part of their process for implementing City Council Rules and Procedures, Clawson City Council voted Monday to remove “invocation” from their agendas, and added “words of inspiration” instead.
City Attorney Renis Nushaj prepared the 15 page document to outline many rules for council business, including how meetings are scheduled and conducted, the order of business at meetings, rules for “debate and decorum,” ethics, policy for city issued devices for councilmembers, training, processes for requesting information of staff, etc. He stated that including prayer could leave the city vulnerable to litigation.
Mayor Reese Scripture, who called herself “not a strong Christian,” was in favor of the removal of invocation, but ultimately supported it being replaced with “words of inspiration.”
She stated “If we’re going to do that, I would absolutely want to say that that would have to be rotated amongst a variety of faiths and beliefs, including non-belief because I would like to believe Clawson is an inclusive community. And while we may not have eighteen hundred Hindus living here now, we may have one, and I don’t care if we have zero, I want someone to feel that they belong here, no matter what religion they practice, what belief they practice, that they belong here just like the rest of us.”
The vote to remove the invocation was 3-2 with Paula Millan and Susan Moffitt voting to keep the invocation, which Millan called “a tradition.”
The name “words of inspiration” was suggested by Kathy Phillips and the motion was made by Louis Samson to add it to city council agendas following the Pledge of Allegiance, where invocation used to be. Millan was the only no vote.
“I’m just dumbfounded,” said Councilperson Millan. “I’m fine with it if we use the word invocation, and if someone doesn’t want to give an invocation than that would be fine. But ‘words of cheer’ or whatever, no thank you. It just, it doesn’t have any meaning.”
The Jan 21 meeting was held via Zoom, and members of the public weighed in using the chat feature.
“Finally! It’s cold and off-putting to practice religion in a council meeting,” one person wrote. Another said “Prayer should stay in church where it belongs.”
Though most comments favored removal of the invocation, or the need to be more inclusive, there were comments in support of the invocation. “Of all times,” someone posted, “during a pandemic, we need prayer more than ever.”
The switch does not preclude the person giving the “words of inspiration” from saying a prayer, it just does not limit their remarks to one.
Clawson City Council also voted to remove the automatic scheduling of study sessions before council meetings, which still gives them the option to schedule study sessions as needed. This provision passed 3-2, with Mayor Scripture and Councilperson Samson voting no.