The Davis School Board says prayer and other religious devotions used to open its meetings are constitutionally protected, and it intends to allow board members to take turns deciding how each of its meeting begins.
"The right to the free exercise of conscience and religious instinct in the public forum is a right equal to the free exercise of speech, the press and assembly and has preeminent constitutional protections and encouragement," the policy, given preliminary approval, reads."Decisions as to whether or not to pray at the commencement of board meeting should be sensitive to preserving each board member's individual right to free expression of conscience and religious instinct, at the same time exercising sensitivity to the public that attends," the policy continues.
According to the policy, prayer is a legally permissible expression of religious freedom and the Constitution implies that such prayers should neither be prescribed nor censored.
In presenting the policy, Board President Lynn Summerhays quoted a recent statement Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev made about the necessity of religious freedom. She read it first without giving attribution, and most board members guessed an American constitutional framer had made the statement.
"Prayer in public meetings is not prohibited by the Constitution, but supported by it," Summerhays said.
Board members, on a monthly basis, will rotate the responsibility for choosing how board meetings will begin. The free exercise of conscience, religion, speech, patriotism, culture, the press and assembly is encouraged.
The time should not be used "to proselytize or advance any one, or disparage any other, faith or belief, and should reflect an appropriate sensitivity to the public who attends due to the plurality of views in our society," the policy says.
Earlier this year the school administration told school board members not to give prayers and invited various religious and education leaders to give "reverence" at the beginning of each meeting. For example, Tuesday night Stephen Sirkin, executive director of the Davis Education Association, shared a brief history of Judaism, the world religion's emphasis on education and an explanation of Hanukkah.
A final vote on the policy will be taken Jan. 9.