Brazoria City Council backs prayer in schools
By Eric Hanson, The Houston Chronicle, April 14, 2007
The Brazoria City Council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution calling for prayer to be a part of public schools and urging other Texas cities to pass similar measures.
"I feel the need (for prayer) is greater now than ever before. It is something I want to be involved in," Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley said Friday. "My goal is to just bring God back into the lives of these kids through our school system."
Local civil rights attorney and American Civil Liberties Union member Randall Kallinen, said he sees nothing wrong with the resolution.
"They are free to express their opinion," he said Friday.
But Kallinen said if a government body passed a legally binding measure mandating school prayer he would consider it to be unconstitutional.
"And when the government forces a certain religion, that is what the Constitution forbids," he said.
The prayer resolution marks the second time this year Brazoria city leaders have tackled a controversial issue.
In January, Corley led an effort to make it a crime to say the "N-word" anywhere within the city limits. Corley dropped the proposed ordinance after much opposition.
Now the mayor says prayer should be in American schools and should have never been removed in the first place.
"I think it was one of the biggest mistakes this country has ever made," he said. "I strongly believe a day of school should be started with a prayer."
Corley said the council voted 5-0 Tuesday to pass the resolution.
"The city of Brazoria, Texas, strongly urges that prayer be returned to the public school systems of this nation and invites all cities across the state to join in an effort to reinstate prayer in public schools by passing similar resolutions and uniting in a grass-roots movement for that purpose," the resolution said.
Corley said the measure has no legal power. "Obviously, a city council has no jurisdiction over a school system."
Texas law does allow some forms of prayer in schools, said Debbie Ratcliffe, communications director for the Texas Education Agency.
"State law currently recognizes the right of individual students to pray in a nondisruptive manner," Ratcliffe said. "Generally that means silent prayer."
Ratcliffe said courts have restricted districts from participating in activities that amount to religious observances.
"A student can lead a public prayer, but a school employee could not," she said.
Brazoria, with a population of 2,800, is in Brazoria County, south of Houston.
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