Plumsted opts not to impose group prayer before meetings

By ANDREW MARTINS
Staff Writer

PLUMSTED — The decision to pray or not to pray before a Township Committee meeting will be left to the individual, as Plumsted officials decided not to set guidelines for the recitation of a sectarian invocation at the start of each meeting of the governing body.

A resolution outlining the process by which a public prayer would be conducted at the start of a committee meeting was pulled from the agenda prior to the May 6 meeting.

“We did some soul searching on this and some real deep thought and we all pretty much agreed that we can have a prayer if we so desire. We don’t need a resolution to do it,” Mayor Jack Trotta said.

Rather than conducting a public prayer, officials decided to observe a moment of silence prior to the start of a meeting. Attendees may pray silently at that time if they wish to do so.

In April, Committeeman Vincent Lotito and Township Attorney Denis Kelly outlined a proposal that would have established guidelines for a sectarian prayer to be recited at the start of each meeting of the governing body.

Lotito said he proposed the resolution in part because other public entities in Plumsted that conduct meetings start their meetings with a prayer.

According to Kelly, the legal basis for the proposed resolution can be found in a May 2014 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Town of Greece, New York, v. Galloway, in which the court ruled that public prayer does not violate the Constitution because it “comports with America’s tradition and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”

Trotta said he and his colleagues on the committee ultimately agreed that observing a moment of silence at the beginning of their meetings was a fair solution for all individuals who may attend a meeting of the governing body.

“We went with the moment of silence so those who want to pray can and those who do not want do to that, that’s fine too,” he said.

Contact Andrew Martins at amartins@gmnews.com.