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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.

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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