Oak Harbor faces lawsuit over prayer

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

OAK HARBOR, Wash - The Oak Harbor City Council may face legal action for letting people pray before public meetings.

Mayor Scott Dudley received a letter last year from the Freedom from Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin.

"They're asking us to stop invocations at future City Council meetings,” said Dudley.

But the Council starts every meeting with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer.

"That dates back to 1972,” said Dudley. 

On Tuesday, he introduced a solution to the City Council -- offer local leaders of all faiths the chance to give the invocation.  No one would be allowed to say God, Jesus or the name of any other deity.

"It's not fair, it's not right,” said Christian bookstore owner Jill Farnsworth. "Our God and Jesus, that's who we pray and if you say your prayers, it should be in Jesus' name."

The proposal is modeled after a plan adopted by the Marysville City Council in 2002.

“We've had representatives from the Wiccan and the Jewish community as well,” said city spokesperson Doug Buell.  He said groups are told not to mention God, but that was it.

"Once a person is up at the mike, it's a little hard to stop them,” said Buell.

The Oak Harbor City Council tabled the proposal and at this point has no plans to talk about it again.

Mayor Dudley said they face a lawsuit if they don’t put something on paper.