Gilbert school board reinstates pre-meeting prayer

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GILBERT, Ariz. – The governing boards for the Mesa and Gilbert school districts have both voted to hold prayer before meetings, though not without some controversy.

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board had started meetings with a moment of silence for 14 years but, after a 3-2 vote, they will now stop and pray.

The decision comes shortly after the Mesa Public Schools governing board also voted to reinstate prayer before meetings. Mesa had abolished the practice only a few months ago.

"They’ve got some important things to talk about," Gilbert parent Cindy Ogren said. “I think for those that are believers, I think it’s OK."

Not everyone agrees with the decision. Jill Humpherys was one of the two board members who voted against holding prayer, wanting to keep the moment of silence in place.

"I am more concerned with education and having our students do well," Humpherys said. "A moment of silence is simple, but a prayer is actually complicated."

To ensure meetings are inclusive, the board must find clergy from all religions and schedule them equally. That time, Humpherys said, should be spent on education.

The district could also face a lawsuit from groups who say religion has no place in a public meeting.

"I certainly hope the lawsuit doesn’t go through because … our resources are stretched, and I don’t want to spend money on a lawsuit I don’t have to," Humpherys said.

The board needs some prayers, she added, but prayers are better off said at home.