Sanford City Council meetings will once again start with an invocation after the council voted to reinstate prayer at its meeting Tuesday.
The vote was 4-3, with Byron Buckels, Jimmy Haire, Charles Taylor and J.D. Williams voting in favor of an invocation.
Samuel Gaskins, Chas Post and Rebecca Wyhoff opposed the motion, favoring the present practice of opening council meetings with a moment of silence.
"I'm a Christian first and foremost," Post said. "But I believe prayer is personal and private, and is a matter that lies soley between man and his God."
Gaskins said that praying silently and giving everyone a chance to reflect in their own way felt more appropriate to him for a public setting.
"Prayer is personal, and I support that," Gaskins said. "I am much more in favor of a silent prayer."
Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said he respects the beliefs of the council members who voted against the motion, but that he is glad it passed.
"I feel like legislative invocation is meant to encourage the council," Mann said. "I was happy the council voted for it. As mayor, I'm going to be in prayer when I make hard decisions. I think that is important. Legislative prayer, in my opinion, is appropriate."
Haire said the council had opened its meetings with an invocation for years until the ACLU sued Rowan County in March 2013 over the county's practice of legislative prayer.
"When that suit was filed, that's when we went to a moment of silence," Haire said. "We're just going back to the way it was for many years."
Buckels, a local minister, said he believed the invocation was just as important as the Pledge of Allegiance in some ways.
"[The invocation] serves to activate the right mindset and the right spirit to work with each other to identify the key issues for our city and take necessary steps to improve the quality of life," Buckels said.
Williams, who made the motion to reinstate the invocation, made it clear that it was strictly optional, and council members need not feel any pressure to lead or even participate in the prayers.
"You can invite your clergy, or anybody you would like, to lead the invocation in your place," Williams said. "Or you can skip it altogether. There are people on the board who will step in and lead the invocation whenever they're asked."
The council also held nominations and votes for a number of appointments to various boards and commissions.
Oscar Keller III was appointed to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Councilman Williams was appointed to the Americans with Disabilities Act Committee.
David Schau, Kenneth Laughinghouse and Munsey Wheby were appointed to Sanford's Appearance Commission.
Kenneth Laughinghouse also was appointed to the Board of Adjustments.
Carla Thomann was appointed to the Historic Preservation Committee.
Brandon Atkins was appointed to a full term on the Economic Development Corporation, and Cliff Stephens was appointed to fill the unexpired term of retiring member Buddy Keller, which expires July 30, 2015.
Brad Simpson and Ken Britton were appointed to the city's Planning Board.
Lowell Hamel and April Tibbs were appointed to the Sanford Housing Authority.
The council also:
- Approved an ordinance to erect stop signs in both directions on Maple Avenue at the intersection with Fourth Street.
- Authorized a temporary records supervisor position for the Sanford Police Department to fill in while the city looks for a full-time staff member to replace a retiring employee.
- Discussed changing the time and date of the council's law and finance meeting, which now is held every other Wednesday at 1 p.m. Mann said the board was mostly comprised of members with full-time jobs, and a time later in the evening would be easier to manage. No decision was made, and the law and finance meeting is still scheduled for Wednesday, June 25, at the regular time.