Texas Woman Sues to Stop City Council Prayer

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In Houston, Texas, a legal battle is brewing over the city council's practice of praying before meetings.

Plaintiff Kay Staley has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. She says the long-held tradition of opening the meetings with prayer violates the Constitution.

"Just because it's always been doesn't make it right," she said. "There are lots of people who feel this way. I do. Most people are afraid of their jobs, or their friends."

The suit says that allowing prayers of any faith violates the so-called separation of church and state.

However, one city council member called the lawsuit frivolous. Attorneys for the city say there are legal guidelines for allowing prayers at public events.

"I think they are publicity stunts," Council member Mike Sullivan argued. "I don't think it's a genuine concern. Nobody has come before to do this at the city of Houston that I am aware of."

Senior Assistant Attorney Don Cheatham said, "I think what we need to do is review… and make sure we're in conformity with current law."

It's not the first time Staley has butted heads with the city over a religious monument.

In 2003, Staley sued to have a Bible monument removed from a Harris Country courthouse. Three years later an appeals court ordered the monument removed.

*Original Broadcast Date: October 26, 2009.

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