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City leaders drop debate on prayers

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Utah's mayors and council members have decided not to renew debate over prayer during Utah's city council meetings.

In a divided vote Friday, city leaders defeated a resolution to ask voters to approve a change to the Utah Constitution making prayer an official part of any city council meeting.

A proposal brought by Holladay city officials suggested that Utah's city leaders combat recent Utah Supreme Court decisions that have restricted the use of religious devotionals at meetings.

"I'm very frustrated by some of the things happening in the United States," said Holladay Mayor Dennis Larkin. "We feel very strongly in Holladay about reverence before our meetings."

Feelings on the matter, however, were mixed.

Provo Mayor Lewis Billings threw his support to the resolution, pointing out that other states give greater latitude to councils regarding prayer, but because the majority of residents in Utah belong to one pre-

dominant church, some have grown sensitive to the subject.

"I do not support this resolution," said Taylorsville Mayor Janice Auger who called the issue "divisive" among city governments. Auger said the Utah Constitution should not be casually changed in such a manner and suggested that cities consult their attorneys and create prayer policies that are "diverse" and "nondenominational."

At issue, said League of Cities and Towns legislative lobbyist Jodi Hoffman, is avoiding a prayer that would prove "offensive" to others. Hoffman was referring to an atheist who said he had a right to lead prayer during a Murray City Council meeting. After Murray balked, Tom Snyder sued the city.

In April, the Utah Supreme Court upheld Snyder's claim, citing its own 1993 decision that allowed a city to hear prayer during city events as long as the opportunity to deliver the prayer was open to those in attendance and was not discriminatory.

Some city leaders Friday suggested that laws should be changed to limit prayer to only members of a city council or a mayor.

After debating, members of the Utah League of Cities and Towns voted 86 to 54 to defeat the resolution.

E-MAIL: gfattah@desnews.com