Galloway Council Unanimously Passes New Invocation Policy

Council members will read from a list of 35 non-denominational prayers prior to the start of each meeting.

A new invocation policy is now in place in Galloway Township, just over three months after the debate over its absence first came into the spotlight.

Galloway Council unanimously approved a resolution put forth by the committee nominated to draft the new policy Tuesday night, Feb. 26.

“I’m quite happy to be presenting this resolution tonight,” Deputy Mayor and Committee Chair Tony Coppola said prior to Tuesday night’s vote. “It’s something we didn’t want to mandate, but we also didn’t want to be told we can’t have it.”

Per the new policy, there are 35 pre-selected non-denominational prayers available for members of council to read on a rotating process prior to each meeting. However, the reading of a prayer isn’t mandatory, as council members may still choose not to read a prayer, and a moment of silence remains optional.

“No one is obligated to read one and there is no public exposure if they choose not to,” Coppola said. “If they don’t want to do it, we’ll just go to the next council person.”

The policy also states that if a council member goes beyond the parameters set forth by the policy, they are not covered by the township in case of litigation. If a council member chooses to read another prayer not on the list, they can submit another prayer to be approved by the township solicitor.

The issue first came to the forefront on Nov. 13, 2012, when residents began to question why local pastors were no longer being invited to say a prayer prior to the meetings. Those prayers were replaced by a moment of silence.

According to the township, it was hoping to avoid potential lawsuits by moving to a moment of silence. Following the uproar, a committee consisting of Coppola, Councilman Jim McElwee and Councilwoman Whitney Ullman was assembled to study implementing a new policy.

Over the past few weeks, a resolution concerning the policy was either not included on the agenda, or tabled during the meeting, so that the township could make sure it had the proper wording.

In that time, local pastors have visited council meetings, and offered prayers for both residents and council members during the public comment portion of the meeting.

On Tuesday night, the resolution was finally introduced and passed, 7-0.

Prior to Tom Bassford’s term as mayor, council meetings began with a non-denominational prayer led by a council member.

Bassford introduced the idea of an invocation, and former Mayor Keith Hartman championed a policy of inviting every religious institution, regardless of belief, to give an invocation. If any religion was not represented by an institution in the township, Galloway would contact institutions at the county level in an effort to get a fair representation, according to Hartman.

Bill Link February 27, 2013 at 04:08 AM
A sad day when elected officials vote to replace the role of their community clergy.
TheZog February 27, 2013 at 05:25 AM
Another screw-up created by the villiage idiot, Bassford. Let's hope that he stays in Pennsylvania.
JerseyDevil February 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM
Ronda Cluff February 27, 2013 at 11:56 AM
What a sad, delusional world you live in.
Dofang February 27, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Back to the dark ages...
Diogenes February 27, 2013 at 12:53 PM
What? Are the councilmen now ousting the preachers from their church pulpits on Sunday to talk about politics?
pinkorange February 27, 2013 at 03:36 PM
A sad day when not one person on the council seems to understand the importance of the separation of church and state. All I've seen since this this topic came up is selfish religious indulgence. It would have been so nice if you could have used your minds, your hands, and your time wisely. A little less praying and a little more actual working and you might just do a bit more good for EVERYONE (jews, hindus, atheists, agnostics, etc.).
Bill Link February 27, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Prayer by far does the most good, if asking the Father to act on our behalf according to His will in the name of Jesus Christ.
Toni Presnall February 27, 2013 at 04:35 PM
When will people realize that the absense of prayer is what is wrong with this country today.
pinkorange February 27, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Hmmmm..... let me see, praying right now for world peace. Shazam! Nothing happened. Hmmmmm..... must have been too much to ask. Let's try something else. Praying now for children in Africa not to starve. Blam! Nothing happens. Ooooh, I know! I know! Let me pray for my team to win a football game, or for my friend to get a job, or for me to get a new car. Zippety yahoo! God is great! Couldn't have been coincidence, or anyone's hard work. Nope. Not at all. God is in charge of everything! You want to know what is wrong with our country today? People not attributing progress to education and hard work.
Ron Schreiber February 27, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Ron Schreiber February 27, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Amen to that ,
Ron Schreiber February 27, 2013 at 08:42 PM
This Country was built with Christ.and how soon people forget it's a shame ,Wake up America"........you too "Main Street"
pinkorange February 27, 2013 at 08:54 PM
The pilgrims came to America seeking freedom of religion. They didn't want anyone telling them how or what sort of religion to practice. What a lovely idea! Too bad so many people now feel the need to push their very own brand of religion on their fellow countrymen.
bhicks February 27, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Pinkorange is right. Human effort in the real world changes lives in the real world. No evidence exists of the supernatural. No evidence exists that praying to supernatural gods affects anything. However, we can see with our own eyes that hard work by people changes lives, producing cures for diseases, safe drinking water, and technology that can enrich our experience of the world. Prayer didn't invent antibiotics. Before antibiotics, supernatural gods seemed happy to let millions of people die for eons from now treatable infections. Government officials foisting prayer on a community is a declaration of their ignorance and egoism. A god does not govern Galloway Township. People do. Those people need to do work in the real world to help all township residents to thrive. Unfortunately, praying is a higher priority than doing for the town council and mayor. That is why, for example, Galloway residents have to arrange for their own trash to be picked up, which leads to more litter in our community from residents who dispose of their garbage illegally. The council would rather pray for guidance while trash piles up instead of doing work in the real world to solve the problem.
bhicks February 27, 2013 at 09:18 PM
It should be pointed out to those who post vague assertions, such as -- "Prayer by far does the most good, if asking the Father to act on our behalf according to His will in the name of Jesus Christ." -- that assertions without evidence are without value in rational discourse. The leader of North Korea routinely asserts that his country is the greatest in the world. I think we would all agree that his assertion is not supported by evidence. If you want to make a compelling argument in support of the importance of prayer in government, provide concrete, observable evidence of community benefits that can only be explained by government-sanctioned prayer. Otherwise, the quality of your argument is no better than those made by Kim Jong-un.
Samantha Siang February 27, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Separation of church and state is not in the U.S. Constitution. However you try to spin it, only the first amendent and the bill of rights touches on it. Having 40 or 400 non-denom prayers is silly. Get religion out of government and keep government out of religion. Isn't that why the pilgrims came to this country? Why do Galloway's political cronies get bogged down with this stuff with so many other pressing and important issues that need solving?
smithvillian February 27, 2013 at 11:22 PM
There has been more people killed in the name of Christ than you likely even care to acknowledge.
JerseyDevil February 28, 2013 at 01:26 PM
You've no credibility whatsoever. You're nothing but a troll and a bigot who hides behind some screen name that we're supposed to think makes you some sort of patriot. Maybe some pepto bismol will cure that diarrhea.
Diogenes February 28, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Please go back to your history book and find out why Roger Willams founded Rhode Island.
Diogenes February 28, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Did you ever hear of the Thomas Jefferson New Testament?
Diogenes February 28, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Let me clarify--I do agree with you. Roger didn't get such a warm welcome in Massachusetts from all of those people who wanted freedom for their own, but not others' religion.
bhicks March 21, 2013 at 05:59 PM
The suggestion that pinkorange should read a history book to find out why Roger Williams founded Rhode Island demonstrates a flawed understanding of history in addition to being unnecessarily adversarial and inappropriately derisive. Many of those who traveled to America to escape the oppression of religion were people such as deck hands, navigators, and craftsmen who were not particularly religious, if they were religious at all. They wanted religion to leave them alone to live their lives. The fundamental point that pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom is correct. Some individuals sought to impose their now freely-chosen religion on others, while others did not. Unfortunately, religious zealots often find their way into positions of power, impelled by the belief that they are doing god's work when, in actuality, they are using religious divisiveness and oppression as a tool to gain and exercise their own personal power. This does not mean, however, that the pilgrims, as a group, were united in imposing their version of religion on others. Many among the pilgrims did desire true freedom of religion and freedom from religious oppression.


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