Officials in a southern New Jersey city recently made the effort to ensure their public council meetings are more welcoming by eliminating invocations.
Woodbury, a city of about 10,000 people just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, in February replaced invocations with a quiet "moment of reflection," during which the people in attendance are asked to "quietly reflect upon any ideals, thoughts, or prayers they choose."
The move was suggested by the city's Human Rights Commission, a seven-member body formed at the beginning of the year to review city policies "to eliminate discrimination and further the education of the public on issues of diversity and inclusion."
Tony Duran, the commission's president, told the news website NJ.com that the change was intended "to bring the community together." Duran said the commission "believes the moment of quiet reflection does that and is intended to make everyone feel part of the process. The people who've historically felt uncomfortable or excluded because of the invocation can now participate in the process without those feelings. And those who would like to pray still have that moment of quiet reflection to do so."
Woodbury Mayor Jessica Floyd drove home the purpose of government meetings, remarking, "Council meetings are open to the public to conduct city business. To be clear, no one comes to council meetings for an invocation; they are coming to discuss the everyday affairs of the city."
Woodbury's removal of invocations was met with mixed reactions. According to the city council's online meeting minutes from February, several residents and at least one city employee thanked the council for replacing the prayers with a moment of silence.
The Times of Trenton lauded the move...