The topic of prayer has been a constant subject of debate in the City of Newburgh. The Newburgh City Council voted in a four to three margin to keep prayer off of the City Council agenda at Monday’s City Council meetings.
Many clergy members spoke out in favor of prayer during the public comment. Reverend Nelson McAllister quoted from Benjamin Franklin’s Constitutional Address on Prayer. “God governs in the face of men,” read McAllister. “Have we forgotten that we need God?”
Members of the public criticized the usage of a moment in silence instead of a prayer. Many mentioned that the moment of silence is misused because they believe it should only be used to show respect for those who have died.
The moment of silence came to the council last year. More than once the reinstallation of prayer has been brought up. Mayor Torrance Harvey mentioned the proposed resolution at his swearing in ceremony shortly after New Year’s Day.
Despite a heavily Christian city, having a prayer raises concerns of excluding other identities. In addition, it raises the concern of there being a lack of separation between church and state.
Councilwoman Karen Mejia voted against the prayer. She mentioned the Council’s charter does not include a prayer in the first place. “In the spirit of love,” said Mejia. “Religion is love; I am going to adhere to what I voted last time.” Mejia had previously voted for a moment of silence rather than a prayer.
“My wish as part of the 2020 mission would be that we operate out of the religion of love,” said Mejia. “All of the prophets, from all of the religions, their main foundation is around love and understanding. If that’s the religion that you adhere to, whatever God or Goddess you pray too; I hope that continues to live in your heart.”
The council will continue to have a moment of silence instead of a prayer at the beginning of meetings.