It was probably inevitable that at some point, Mohave County’s longstanding tradition of holding a prayer before meetings of the Board of Supervisors would be contested.
It’s disappointing, though, that anyone would think that now was a good time to have that discussion. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every facet of society, threatening lives and economies, and Mohave County’s leaders must make hard decisions that have big consequences. Meanwhile, the country has seen high levels of civil and political unrest which are only likely to worsen.
This year has been one full of challenges, and if the Board of Supervisors feels that appealing to a higher power for guidance, what harm could it cause?
Truth is, any attempt to change the way Mohave County handles invocation at public meetings probably doesn’t have a prayer. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in favor of prayer at public meetings, so Mohave County stands on pretty firm constitutional ground, but opposition still comes up from time. A notable case in Scottsdale turned into political theater in 2016 when the Satanic Temple sought to participate in the invocation for the local city council. The city turned down the request, which turned into a long and expensive court battle that so far has sided with the city.
In Mohave County, it’s a Baptist church that was seeking to offer the invocation at supervisor meetings. We imagine few county residents would have a problem with that.
However, the board shouldn’t change the way it currently handles prayer at meeting. Several years ago,the board stopped inviting members of the community to give the invocation; instead, the prayer is given by one of the supervisors or the clerk of the board. The practice probably protects the county from unwanted attention-seeking by trolls like the situation Scottsdale found itself in. Even if you don’t share in the belief system, prayer is a refreshing show of solemnity and respect by the people elected to make decisions that affect the lives of more than 200,000 people.
Meanwhile, those who want to pray for local government leaders shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so. It should be noted that there’s nothing stopping additional prayers before, during and after a meeting. Pray continuously, whether a meeting is happening or not. God knows our county, and our country, needs it.
— Today’s News-Herald