Updated 10/17/2012 10:14 AM
Despite pressure, Hays County Commissioners to continue prayer tradition
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The threat of a lawsuit wasn't enough to stop the Hays County Commissioners' practice of beginning their meetings with prayer Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the Hays County Commissioners Court received a letter from a Washington-based group saying their practice of beginning their meeting with prayer was unconstitutional.
The threat of litigation caused the commissioners to adopt a non-sectarian approach to prayer—meaning only generic references to a deity are to be used.
Three weeks ago, the commissioners heard from close to 30 Hays County residents, all saying that traditional Christian prayer should return to the court.
On Tuesday only one member of the community spoke. She said she believes prayer is important, but that it doesn't belong in a court of law.
"These personal affirmations should be instituted far outside the confines of all public meetings," Brenda Stewart said.
After discussing the item behind closed doors—because of the potential of litigation—the commissioners court emerged with the new policy for prayer.
The resolution affirms what commissioners believe is a First Amendment right to continue the practice of beginning with a prayer.
"I'm very proud of the position which this Court has taken to preserve that right and continue with our invocations," Hays County Commissioner Will Conley said.
Commissioners also unanimously adopted a policy for how those prayers will be given. Churches will be identified from around Hays County and randomly selected to be invited to give prayer.
County Judge Bert Cobb says protecting the right to pray is one of the principles this nation was founded upon.
"This policy is keeping with that admonition from history that we continue to honor the sacrifices of those that came before us and preserve it for those that come after us," Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said.
The new prayer policy is now in effect.