School board weighs prayer

By Ben Robinson
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court made it legal for certain government entities to have prayer at their meetings, and Pickens County School Board members wasted no time getting the ball rolling on bringing prayer back to their monthly meetings.

School board chairman Alex Saitta and fellow trustee Jim Shelton recently held a meeting with community members and three local pastors to discuss a new policy for opening board meetings with prayer.

Gilead Baptist Church, the Rev. Jimmy Anthony of Prayer Baptist Church in Norris and the Rev. Shem Durham of Cannon Mountain Baptist Church in Pickens.

The preachers came to share their support for the board members’ efforts.

The board members suggested that in order to be fair the board should rotate among local pastors and also expressed concern that the prayer might me skipped if a clergy member was unable to attend.

Shelton said the clergy would be responsible for keeping the rotation active.

“If you were that pastor who could not be here, you would be able to telephone to make sure someone is here,” Shelton said.

Saitta said he supports returning prayer to the meetings, but he wants to make sure the new policy will not be challenged.

“Prayers at the start of government meetings have a long history, going back to the first meeting of the U.S. Congress in 1789,” he said.

“It is a tradition I believe government bodies should carry on. Eliminating the prayer or going to a moment of silence as some government bodies have done in the past two years was a mistake.

“At this meeting we got input from local citizens and clergy, and they favored switching from our non-sectarian prayer to a method similar to Greece, N.Y., where local clergy were called in to start the meeting with a prayer of their own conscience and one that expressed their own belief. I support making the switch to the Greece, N.Y., method. My hope is we’ll have a policy back from the attorney in a few weeks and we’ll meet to discuss it.”

Another meeting has yet to be scheduled.