NC city council replaces prayer before meetings with moment of silence

Copies of the Jewish Bible and The Qur'an sit next to each other on a bookshelf, Thursday, February 18, 2016.
Copies of the Jewish Bible and The Qur'an sit next to each other on a bookshelf, Thursday, February 18, 2016.

A North Carolina city council has voted to eliminate the prayer typically offered at the beginning of its meetings.

The Salisbury City Council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to replace the prayer with a moment of silence.

Mayor Pro Tem David Post made the motion to replace prayer with a moment of silence. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield, a new addition to the board. Mayor Al Heggins also voted in favor of the motion. Councilwoman Karen Alexander and Councilman Brian Miller voted against the change.

Miller typically provided the prayer at the start of each council meeting. The last prayer given at a Salisbury council meeting was provided by Pastor Glenwood Oats of Cornerstone Church, according to council minutes and video.

The council’s agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting included: “council to consider implementing a moment of silence” but did not elaborate further.

Salisbury is located in Rowan County. Rowan County commissioners face a lawsuit by the ACLU of North Carolina on behalf of residents who took issue with prayers that were predominately Christian at commissioner meetings. The case against Rowan County is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In December, two people at a Greenville City Council meeting criticized a prayer at the start of the meeting offered by an Islamic cleric who did not use English.

Shaik Fazailahmed of the Islamic Center of Eastern North Carolina was invited by a Greenville councilman to pray and recited and chanted Arabic prayers at the meeting on Dec. 14.

One person, Dave Barham, asked for a transcript, saying he had “no idea what that prayer was asking for.”

Another resident, James Harris, told the cleric to speak English and not to use Muslim prayers, which he described as “degrading.”

Fazailahmed apologized and provided a copy of his prayer in English and read it. The translation asked God to bless those in attendance and provide wisdom and guidance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.