(Photo: Colorado Springs City Council)
In response to a nearby city deciding to drop invocation prayers from its council meeting agenda, a Colorado city has doubled down on its support for invocation prayers at its city council meetings.
The City Council of Colorado Springs has stated that they intend to keep their invocation prayers, even as Pueblo City Council agreed to discontinue the practice in response to criticism from an atheist organization.
"The inclusiveness of our invocations is designed specifically to be respectful of the religious freedoms of our community," said Council President Pro-tem Jan Martin, in a statement. "We welcome the diversity of invocations at our meetings and we find the few minutes taken before our meetings sets a very thoughtful and respectful tone."
Vicki Gomes, spokeswoman for the Colorado Springs City Council, told The Christian Post that the city has a long-standing tradition of opening meetings with prayer.
"Invocation prayers and/or well wishes for the community have occurred at the City of Colorado Springs City Council meetings for more than 35 years," said Gomes.
Gomes explained to CP that the prayers have been given by local clergy from various faiths as well as council member themselves.
"We've created and maintained a large database of all religious and non-denominational organizations in the area. We alternate through the database for each formal meeting, held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month," said Gomes.
"[We] strive to include all types of religions, faiths, churches and denominations; in fact, we encourage people who are interested in giving the invocation and/or well wishes for the community to call us."
The Colorado Springs decision to keep the invocation prayer tradition comes in response to the City Council of Pueblo's decision to discontinue the practice.
Located about 45 miles from Colorado Springs, in September Pueblo received a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation demanding their halting of the prayers at meetings.
Last week, the Pueblo City Council opted to indefinitely postpone the use of invocation prayers, replacing the practice with a moment of silence instead.
"Local government should not be in the business of performing religious rituals, or exhorting all citizens, regardless of beliefs, to participate in a Christian prayer, or even asking citizens to show deference or obeisance to this ritual," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel.
Regarding its history of prayers, Gomes of Colorado Springs told CP that on at least one occasion an atheist opened a city council meeting with words of well-wishing.
"In 2008, Rich Breidenbach, an atheist and board member of the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs, delivered the invocation and was quoted in a Colorado Springs Gazette article ... as stating that he welcomed the invitation and opportunity to speak," said Gomes.