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Alabama city council won't let Wiccan lead public prayer
June 27, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Here's the fly in the ointment for city councils who want to begin their meetings with a public prayer: sometimes you have to let witches give the invocation.
The AP reports that the Rev. Blake Kirk, Priest of the Oak, Ash and Thorn Tradition of Wicca, has been disinvited from giving the opening prayer at the city council meeting in Huntsville, Ala.
Kirk gave the opening prayer in January without any problems, according to the AP. Apparently word got out before the most recent meeting, though, and local citizenry called the council office to complain.
"It is not right," Kirk told Huntsville TV station WHNT-TV. "The city cannot pick and choose what faiths they want to support and allow to speak and give the prayer."
Kirk is exactly right. In fact, that is pretty much what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May in the case of Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway. The Supreme Court said a Christian sectarian prayer before a public meeting is constitutional and that city governments do not have to go to extraordinary effort to find representatives of all religions to lead a prayer before a meeting.
On the other hand, town councils presumably do have to include representatives of minority religions who are active in the community or who have requested to be included in the rotation of regular prayer chaplains.
Kirk is a clergyman in Huntsville and has as much right to be represented in the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer as do the local Baptist minister or the local Catholic priest.
If this goes to court, the Huntsville city council will likely lose and lose badly. Either they let the Wiccan priest give the invocation in rotation with other clergy members or they must do away altogether with the practice of prayer before meetings.
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