McHenry Township board meetings won’t open with prayer after trustees shot down the implementation of an invocation at Thursday’s meeting.
Trustee Steve Verr requested the item be brought forward but was the only “yes” vote on the matter.
Trustees voting against the measure said they didn’t want to open the door to some non-Christian groups such as Satanists, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists.
The U.S Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that legislative bodies may open public meetings in prayer, but those prayers aren’t limited to Christian invocations.
Residents in the audience pointed out the legal ruling during public comment.
“If this does pass, I look forward to having Christians, Jewish people and Muslims,” Wonder Lake resident Mike Tauler said. “I look forward to atheists having their invocation. I look forward to members of the Satanic temple coming to have their invocation. Once you open it up to one, you open it up to all. Don’t forget that.”
Verr often is criticized and heckled during meetings, and some residents in attendance called the request a ploy.
“Somebody on the board thinks they can trigger us to react a certain way,” McHenry Township resident John Sarff said. “We are onto your game, and we’re going to play along. Don’t be surprised by any of the groups that come in to do an invocation. We are going to play, and we are going to outplay you.”
Trustees ultimately voted down the measure despite being taunted by Verr.
“I don’t see what the problem is,” Verr said. “Everyone here is cowed because of some Marxists in the audience here tonight.”
Trustee Stan Wojewski said he didn’t think the board meetings were an appropriate forum for an invocation prayer. Trustees Bob Anderson and Mike Rakestraw said they respected the sentiment but didn’t want to open up the meetings to a diversity of religion.
“I think this will open up something above and beyond what would be comfortable here,” Anderson said.
Rakestraw said he wouldn’t be comfortable with a non-Christian opening the meeting in prayer.
“As a believer in Jesus Christ, I don’t want to have a Muslim, atheist, Buddhist or anyone else get up and do an invocation for one of our meetings,” Rakestraw said. “I just have a difficult time thinking I would get up and listen to an atheist or Satanist or anybody else [pray] to a God I don’t believe in and feel good about it.”