Differing approaches to public prayer in Grand Rapids

7:24 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo taken in February 2009 by Jessica Puchala, WZZM 13.

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday said it would hear arguments in a case involving the common practice of prayer before public bodies begin deliberations. The ruling could impact the U.S. Congress, and thousands of communities across the country.

In 2012, Grand Rapids ended its practice of prayer before city commission meetings. Mayor George Heartwell said, "I became increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that prayers offered were almost always Christian prayers and used the Year of Interfaith Understanding in G.R. as an opportunity to talk about our religiously diverse community and end the longstanding tradition of prayer before public meetings."

Instead, a moment of silent reflection is offered.

The Kent County Board of Commission does still offer prayer before meetings begin. Commission chairman Dan Koorndyke says there are no plans to change the practice unless they are forced to. "I think it helps focus and ground commissioners on what we're about to undertake - that's my personal belief."

The high court is expected to rule in the case from a small New York town in about one year.

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