Many Miami Valley cities begin their public council or commission meetings with a prayer or invocation, a practice that will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court this year, in a case coming out of New York state.
Dayton’s mayor and four city commissioners take turns beginning each meeting with an “invocation,” with each individual choosing what they will say.
In the past month, three commissioners have asked those gathered to bow their heads, then said two-sentence prayers, asking the Lord or God to help the commissioners serve the community well, and ending with Amen. Mayor Gary Leitzell recited the poem “Worthwhile” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, which praises those who remain upbeat in the face of trouble. Commissioner Nan Whaley recited a Barbara Kingsolver passage about how we face challenges.
Leitzell said he generally uses an inspirational poem or quote rather than a prayer, to avoid the issue the courts are now considering.
Several cities, including Xenia, Centerville and Miamisburg, invite local church clergy to say prayers at the start of their meetings. Others such as Oakwood and Springboro, do not have a prayer or invocation.
“It’s been done that way since before I became the mayor 18 years ago, so I just followed suit,” Springboro Mayor John Agenbroad said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t change it. I don’t have a problem with it either way. … I guess you either want to be inclusive or you don’t do it at all.”
Kettering Mayor Don Patterson gives the same invocation at the beginning of each meeting, asking the Lord for guidance, so that city council serves residents well.
“I’ve not heard any comments either pro or con,” Patterson said of his invocation, adding that he doesn’t expect to change. “Ours is not one that I think too many people would find offensive.”