Prayer in the Public Square a Hot Topic in Three States

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Prayer before public meetings is the hot topic in three states this week: South Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation has asked the city council in Rapid City, S.D., to stop prayer before its meetings.

"I think the best thing is for the council to just get down to business and do the work they're there to do, rather than engage in religious issues," said Patrick Elliot, the attorney who drafted the group's letter to the city.

But Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker said he's "strongly in favor of continuing the prayers."

"I believe that this is a time-honored tradition that has strong community support," Kooiker said

Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, agreed, adding the decision should be made locally.

"They're having a pause for prayer. It's not spending public money. They're taking a moment. I'm sure they're doing it in a manner respectful of other religions," Taylor said.

In Pickens, S.C., the foundation has asked the school board to stop prayer, calling it a constitutional violation.

"The sentiment of the citizens was to fight," said Pickens resident Wayne Dickard, who supports the prayer.

Another prayer supporter, Randy Mulligan said, "I see the hurting in our students. We've taken God out of schools."

Meanwhile, there's movement toward prayer in Virginia. A state Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment giving the right to pray at school and on all government property.

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