Mayor's prayer idea voted down

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By David Giuliani

Mayor Tony Marquez may not have had his prayer answered Wednesday night.

The Las Vegas City Council unanimously rejected his proposal to have an invocation, or prayer, at the beginning of each meeting.

Marquez noted that he proposed prayer during meetings when he was a councilman four years ago — an idea his colleagues rejected back then.

In arguing for his proposal, Marquez said the U.S. Congress and state Legislature have prayers to begin their sessions.

“It’s my opinion that it will help us get along better,” he said.

Councilman Andrew Feldman warned that the city would have to be careful to recognize all religions with such prayers. Otherwise, the city may face lawsuits, he said.

“In my opinion, prayer is a private matter. We already have a moment of silence,” he said.

Councilman Cruz Roybal agreed.

“I do my private prayer on the way to the council meeting. That’s the way it should be. It should be up to the individual. I don’t think the government has any say-so in this,” he said.

Councilman Morris Madrid said he, too, opposed the mayor’s proposal. But he credited Marquez for bringing up the issue, even though the mayor knew the prayer proposal would likely fail.

After the council voted to reject the idea, Marquez said, “The democratic process.”

On Thursday, Mayor Tony Marquez released a statement in which he questioned whether Marshall Poole, who raised the prospect of a lawsuit over council prayer, would sue the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

Marquez referred to a quote from televangelist Pat Robertson, “Every constitution of the 50 states which make up our union contains a reference to God. Oaths sworn in court use the phrase ‘…so help me God.’ The Supreme Court convenes with a prayer, ‘God save this honorable court.’ We are, and have continued to be, a religious people since our founding.”

None of the other local governing bodies — the County Commission, the East and West school boards, the Highlands University Board of Regents and the Luna Community College board — have prayers during their meetings.

City officials have reported that only two other municipalities in the state have prayers at their meetings.

In 2005, when Marquez last proposed prayers during meetings, only one of his colleagues supported the idea — Arthur “Castro” Vigil, who told his colleagues afterward, “We’ve got a bunch of atheists on the City Council.”