In Congress, in Washington D.C., in Arizona’s State Legislature, and even in Mesa’s School Board meetings, before any business is conducted, one of the first items on the agenda is to start the meeting with prayer. In Gilbert’s school board meetings, this is not the case… nor has it been for some time. But for now… it’s the way it will be, because the God of our Congress, our State Legislature, and even Mesa’s board meetings, is not welcome in Gilbert’s. Moreover, board members have decided it’s not even worth discussion.
On Sept 4, 2012 during a GPS school board meeting held at district offices, an item appeared on the agenda to allow discussion of opening future board meetings with a non-denominational invocation. The agenda item is referenced below as it appeared(text layout/formatting excepted). Items Bolded for emphasis and clarity.
Proposed Items for Future Consideration
1. Work study to discuss opening with a nondenominational prayer or invocation, like several other school districts including Mesa and all higher policy making bodies do.
Based on “Tram’s Rule” of 2010, proposed items for future discussion are simply decided upon whether they will become future agenda items available for discussion. Board members are to refrain from lengthy discussion of the subject due to open meeting law requirements. The action before the board at this point is to simply make a determination whether the issue warrants further discussion on a future agenda.
Unable to follow “Tram’s Rule” discussion ensued and several questions were asked in addition to comments showing frustration with “Tram’s Rule” and a desire to revisit the current method. Among several comments, Board President, EJ Anderson asked Clyde Dangerfield what was a non-denominational invocation and Board Member, Blake Sacha sought clarity on exactly what was being decided then received verification that the decision before the board was simply whether or not this subject warranted further discussion.
Sadly, 4 of 5 board members voted NAY to further discussion on a future agenda. Board member Staci Burk and author of the initiative to bring this discussion to the board was the only in support of further discussion. What conclusions can be drawn? What reasoning would 4 board members have for refusing to open this subject for further discussion in a district that is known for it’s strong religious affiliations. These board members are now joined with Atheists as the minority of those who championed the removal of God from our classrooms by banning prayer and removing God from the lips of all those who walk the halls of our K-12 educational facilities.
“What is a non-denominational invocation?” This question was asked from board president EJ Anderson to Clyde Dangerfield who often serves as legal counsel for both the school board and the district. The answer was that a non-denominational prayer is that which does not identify GOD by any specific name but as a general reference. What reasonable person with a religious affiliation would be offended by such a reference? Perhaps those who are offended by “In God We Trust” on our national currency might be. But those people having contempt for prayer as a worthless superstition and vain tradition are in the extreme minority and remain unaffected by such a practice as an invocation in a public meeting. Only the godless would avoid further discussion and a change to the agenda to start with a non-denominational invocation?
The SCORE: Godless – 1, Believers – 0
A YouTube video capturing the significance of this event has been produced. The video is available below.
If you wish to share your feelings with the school board on this matter, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be aware that your email will also be seen by district administrators as well as subject to the media via public records search.