• Charlotte City Council continues to have invocation

    By: Elsa Gillis , Joe Bruno


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - One week after Charlotte's mayor put prayer on the shelf at city council meetings it's back on the agenda again.

    [PAST COVERAGE: Backlash ensues over mayor's announcement to cancel prayer before meeting]

    Eyewitness news reporter Elsa Gillis was at the Government Center Monday as the city attorney worked to clear up some confusion about the quick reversal.

    An invocation was held at Monday night's meeting after there was more clarity on what the council can and can't do after a week of backlash and confusion over prayer in meetings.

    The Charlotte city attorney's office gave the green light to the council's prayer practices.

    (LIVESTREAM: Eyewitness News)

    "What the council is currently doing is OK,” senior assistant attorney Jason Kay said. “It's perfectly constitutional."

    Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced on Sept. 18 that the council agreed to stop the invocation at the advice of the city attorney.

    A week later, he clarified what happened with the council's Governance and Accountability Committee.

    He did say avoiding prayer at meetings would be 100 percent legally safe, but it was not meant as a suggestion to end it.

    "Your prayers have been primarily non-sectarian,” city attorney Robert Hagemann said. “I interpret and receive them as being generally very inclusive, and nowhere near the line that's forbidden under the law here."

    Part of Monday's discussion also included explaining a recent court ruling that found commissioners in Rowan County violated the Constitution with their meeting prayer.

    Commissioners heard from the public Monday night and voted unanimously to appeal this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Charlotte City Council now has a set of guidelines for the invocation that include keeping prayers civic in nature, not proselytizing or denigrating other faiths or non-believers and not asking the audience to stand or join in prayer.

    "I feel stronger today that we're on firm ground," Councilman Kenny Smith said.

    "We were able to work together to have a way to continue to have what I call that ‘moment of reflection,'" Mayor pro tem Vy Lyles said.

    The city attorney said that list is meant as a reminder, not something the council had to stop doing.

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