South Georgia lawmakers react to prayer and government debate
Lee County Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge
Many local governments in South Georgia begin their meetings with prayer. That practice is now being examined by the Supreme Court after an appeals court found that a New York town violated the constitution. Leaders in our area say they'll continue with their traditions until they're instructed otherwise.
Lee County commission chairman, Rick Muggridge says it's tradition to use prayer before every meeting. "The meeting is just among the five that are representatives of the people and so that prayer for me is a prayer between the five of us and of course we invite the audience to participate, if they choose to do so," said Muggridge.
The Supreme Court is now looking at a case in New York that questions this very practice.
"There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good old fashion prayer prior to policy making. I really feel that it's necessary. It kind of gets everybody in a mood to be deliberate about the people's business and it's important that we have that spiritual comradery among ourselves. And then we can go ahead and take care of the business of the people," said Senator Freddie Powell Sims, (D) Dawson.
The high court is reviewing an appeals court ruling, which said a New York town violated the constitution by beginning every meeting over 11 years, with prayers endorsing Christianity.
Muggridge says their prayers are also Christian based, but any faith is welcome. "In the end, I keep coming back to the meaning itself is between the five representatives of the people. And the meaning is between the five of us. And so really it's a prayer for one of us, that we're asking on our behalf. So having a Christian prayer since the five of us are Christian just makes sense to me," said Muggridge.
Both Albany City and Dougherty County commissioners also begin their regular meetings with prayer.
Commissioner Gloria Gaines says they will continue with this practice until they hear otherwise. "I look forward to those prayers, to the invocation. I certainly believe that whatever opportunity we have as long as we're within the law and within the will of the people to invoke something outside of ourselves to help us do what is right then we should do that," said Gaines.
The court of appeals said the New York town should have made a greater effort to invite people from other faiths to open their meetings. A decision is expected to be made in the court's next term, which begins in October.