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Proposal to eliminate invocation at council meetings rejected

By Staff | Nov 22, 2010

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz backed off his hope of removing the invocation prior to the start of Cape Coral City Council meetings after he failed to garner any support on the dais Monday.
Residential support was lacking, too, after several citizens laid out their feelings before council at the podium during public comment.
Debra Ivey said she would be “ashamed” to live in a city where prayer is not a part of government.
“Why else would you want to remove prayer unless you were ashamed of God?” Ivey said.
John Shudlick, a one-time mayoral hopeful, gave an impassioned speech that recalled the founders of this country, and how their religious beliefs shaped the nation.
Shudlick said there was no separation of church and state.
“I will pay someone $1,000 if someone can show me where it says separation of church and state in the constitution,” Shudlick added.
Pastor Dennis Gingerich from the Cape Christian Fellowship Church said he never understood why Cape clergy had previously been barred from leading the weekly invocation.
Bringing them back into the fold, he said, would once again pique their interests in city matters.
“Inviting them back would involve them in the city again,” Gingerich said. “Most of them don’t have any idea what the issues of the city are, or even what the mayor’s name is.”
Former school board candidate John Traube took the opposite approach, saying the removal of the invocation would instead open the meetings to people of all religious ideologies.
Traube wondered how city council would feel being forced to prey to mecca like those of the Muslim faith.
“Some of are not Christian who are citizens of Cape Coral,” Traube said. “I don’t want to be forced to observe a prayer I don’t believe.”
Chulakes-Leetz said he approached the idea as a way to stimulate conversation among members of the dais, and the community.
He said he’s received less email from the community on the issue than he did about pot bellied pigs, when an ordinance dealing with the pets was up for discussion and change.
“The purpose was to create dialogue and to make sure we are where we want to be,” Chulakes-Leetz said.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said anyone in the audience has the option not to participate in the invocation, or moment of silence, prior to each meeting.
“You’re not forced to participate, you can leave and come back in,” Brandt said.
The amendment, 52-10, that included the proposed changes by Chulakes-Leetz, will likely not come before council for a vote next week so it can be further examined by staff and council.
Chulakes-Leetz also proposed council meet Tuesdays following a Monday holiday so they would not have to wait until the next Monday rolls around.
Chulakes-Leetz said city staff is expected to work on Tuesdays following holidays and council should be expected to do the same.
The suggestion of more meetings also found little support.
“I’m not in favor of adding additional meetings,” Councilmember Kevin McGrail said, who also cited other boards and obligations councilmembers already have.