Salisbury Council Will Continue With Pledge

SALISBURY – The Salisbury City Council amended its own Regulations and Rules of Order this week regarding reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.

The amendment scratches out the language “and the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance has been recited” following the meeting being called to order and prior to the adoption of the agenda. The council has compromised on the amendment through the suggestion of inviting ministries of different faiths to legislative sessions to share their prayers.

Councilwoman Eugenie Shields was concerned over the delusion the amendment would create concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. Although it will be removed from the rules and regulations, the council has confirmed it will continue to recite the pledge.

“I just wanted to make sure it was clear that we are also going to be saying the Pledge of Allegiance before we call the meeting to order because it is a misconception that we are deleting the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said.

Council Vice President Deborah Campbell also felt the omitted language from the regulations isn’t clear enough and asked for the prayer and pledge to be voted on separately.

“It gives future councils a free pass with doing away with one or both of those traditions without any public awareness or scrutiny,” she said.

Shields responded that the City Council has been saying the Lord’s Prayer since 1958 with no outcry from the public, but the amendment has been discussed due to a concern of the new council.

“I am hoping that we can be able to talk to the new council members and share what we have done in our rules of order and they may go along with it … but if they don’t they have the same right as the new council just did and change the rules of order,” she said.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell agreed and said she felt each council has the right to decide what procedure is appropriate to follow.

“We feel that this is a good start,” Council President Terry Cohen said.

The council voted 4-1, with Campbell in opposition, to remove the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance from the Salisbury City Council Regulations and Rules of Order. A separate vote was taken on other amendments and was approved unanimously.

“When this first started, I asked that this end with something that would be dignified, equitable and within the law, and we did all of those and I think we came up with a very good compromise,” Councilman Tim Spies said. “I look forward to the folks out in the public who come forth and give some of those prayers.”

One other amendment approved involved the conduction of public hearings between the first and second reading of a proposed or amended ordinance.

“We have had a lot of feedback from people that what we have are not true public hearings, they are actually public input sessions,” Cohen said.

Cohen explained that public hearings were scheduled to allow the public to address an agenda item and by eliminating public hearings it is just doing away with the “middle step.” She said by allowing public input at first and second reading it will still provide ample opportunity for the public to weigh in.

“It just struck us as rather odd to swear people in to tell the truth in giving their opinion or expressing how something may impact them,” she said.

Cohen added that public hearing will still be scheduled for matters that require the procedure by law, for example, zoning public hearings that may be mandatory as part of state code or charter.

“We believe that we can have less confusion on a forward moving agenda with first and second reading with public input available,” she said. “So it would give the public two opportunities instead of one.”