The Daily Ardmoreite
  • In God we trust

  • Separation of church and state has become an issue for the Ardmore City Commission.

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  • Separation of church and state has become an issue for the Ardmore City Commission.
    An advocacy group, Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisc., believes the invocation at the start of the commission meetings is in violation of the Constitution.
    The foundation says in a fax to former mayor Keith King, that “a local resident brought this matter to our attention.” The fax also states that the foundation “strenuously oppose the use of religious rituals — prayer — prior to meetings of civil government.”
    Surprise and disbelief is what mayor Bob Geurin felt.
    “People from the outside shouldn’t be allowed to tell us what we do in Ardmore, Oklahoma,” he said.
    City attorney Ted Pasley responded to FFRF in a letter disagreeing with the foundation’s opinion that legislative prayer is unconstitutional.
    Citing Marsh vs. Chambers, in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of legislative prayer in Nebraska, he states that the invocation at the beginning of the commission’s meetings do not try to alter citizens’ personal convictions or degrade any faith or belief.
    He also points out Congress has opened its session with prayer for more than 200 years.
    “The prayer is said for the good of the commission and has been for years,” said vice mayor Sheryl Ellis. She added just because they received the fax, doesn’t mean the commission will immediately stop the prayer before meetings.
    City manager J.D. Spohn said the commission was advised by Pasley of four options:
    • Stop having the invocation
    • Keep the invocation, but keep them nondenominational, not mentioning a deity
    • Observing a moment of silence during invocation
    • Have a detailed system for selection of speakers and allow them to compose prayers as they deem best.
    “I personally don’t see a problem with asking for guidance and direction from a higher power when we are trying to make decisions that are best for the citizens of Ardmore,” he said, adding that keeping the invocation, but changing it so that it wouldn’t offend citizens, would probably be the option chosen.
    However, he said the choice is ultimately up to the commission.
    Neither Geurin nor Ellis want to change a thing.
    “My plans are to keep it as is,” Geurin said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
    The foundation claims to work to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. It represents more than 150 members in Oklahoma, with a local chapter in Tulsa.
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