Will County board likely to keep prayer rules

Ex­ec­u­tive board rules against change to ‘mo­ment of re­flec­tion’

Daily Southtown - - NEWS - By Ali­cia Fab­bre Ali­cia Fab­bre is a free­lance re­porter for the Daily South­town.

Rules re­gard­ing a prayer or in­vo­ca­tion be­fore Will County board meet­ings likely are to re­main the same, of­fi­cials said.

Mem­bers of the county board’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee Thurs­day de­cided not to make changes to the in­vo­ca­tion given be­fore monthly board meet­ings. The full county board will vote on reg­u­la­tions — in­clud­ing one about the in­vo­ca­tion — that out­line how the county board gov­erns. Rules are re­viewed every two years fol­low­ing elec­tions.

Within the past month, some board mem­bers had sug­gested changes to the in­vo­ca­tion. One pro­posed change re­viewed Thurs­day would have al­lowed for a “mo­ment of re­flec­tion” if a clergy mem­ber was not avail­able to give an in­vo­ca­tion or prayer be­fore the board meet­ings. In the past, county board mem­bers Herb Brooks, a lo­cal pas­tor, or Gretchen Fritz, a lo­cal dea­con, have been called on to de­liver a prayer if a clergy mem­ber was not avail­able.

Some board mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern that hav­ing an­other board mem­ber de­liver a prayer be­fore a meet­ing could present is­sues re­gard­ing sepa­ra­tion of church and state. They noted that of the last 13 board meet­ings, seven of the pray­ers were given by ei­ther Brooks, D-Joliet, or Fritz, R-Plain­field. Oth­ers also noted that the clergy or board mem­bers de­liver Chris­tian pray­ers and that other faiths are not rep­re­sented.

“My big­gest con­cern is that we want to make sure we’re not putting our­selves in le­gal jeop­ardy,” said Mimi Cowan, a Naperville Demo­crat, re­cently elected to the board. “My sec­ondary con­cern is that we’re rep­re­sent­ing the vi­brant di­ver­sity of our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Brooks re­mained silent dur­ing Thurs­day’s dis­cus­sion and would only say he found the dis­cus­sion “in­ter­est­ing” fol­low­ing the meet­ing.

Oth­ers took the pro­posed change to add a mo­ment of re­flec­tion as an op­tion and pro­hibit board mem­bers from de­liv­er­ing a prayer as a move to elim­i­nate prayer. “I think the mes­sage this sends is anti-re­li­gious,” said board mem­ber Jim Moustis, a Frank­fort Re­pub­li­can. “Ask­ing for guid­ance for us to do the right thing is a good thing.”

Board mem­bers will still be al­lowed to de­liver a prayer or in­vo­ca­tion if needed, but there will be an ef­fort to in­clude other board mem­bers and not rely on the same peo­ple to fill in if needed, said Will County Board Speaker Denise Win­frey, D-Joliet.

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