Arroyo Grande axes prayer from council meetings
December 11, 2014
Following a threat of Satanism preaching at council meetings, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to eliminate its longstanding invocation practice.
The council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to stop holding invocations and replace them with moments of silence. Council members Barbara Harmon and Tim Brown dissented in the vote.
Four members of an atheist group spoke during public comment at the hearing. One said a local satanic group is forming, and due to a recent Supreme Court hearing, the city would have to allow them to participate in the invocation practice.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that faith-based invocations are permissible at public meetings. However, the ruling shortly followed the city of Pismo Beach choosing to settle a lawsuit filed by an atheist group, claiming prayer that occurred at council meetings had violated the California Constitution.
The Pismo Beach City Council agreed to stop allowing prayer at the beginning of its meetings and to pay $47,502 in legal fees and damages to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
In addition to Pismo Beach, the cities of Atascadero and San Luis Obispo also do not have invocations at their council meetings. Grover Beach and Morro Bay councils each conduct moments of silence, according to an Arroyo Grande staff report.
Paso Robles is now the only city in the county that still has invocations at council meetings. Representatives of any faith, including atheism, can participate.