Molly Davis, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/30/2011 02:19:33 PM PDT

YUCAIPA – Sitting in front of a wall with “In God We Trust” on it, the City Council could not come to a consensus about an agenda item on having an invocation, or nondenominational prayer, before each meeting.

No majority was reached Monday night on any option regarding an invocation, so by default, no change will be made, and the council will not have any sort of prayer or moment of silence before its meetings.

Councilman Tom Masner suggested the council consider having an invocation before each meeting after the council voted to have the national motto, “In God We Trust,” added to the Council Chambers’ wall below the City of Yucaipa sign.

City staff presented a number of options for the council to consider, including allowing prayer during the public comment portion of the meeting, having a moment of silence, or praying before the meeting begins.

Another option was having a nonsectarian invocation, or nondenominational prayer, that would strive to include all faiths.

The last option could leave the city open to lawsuits, according to the staff report.

The council was split on the idea of having any sort of invocation at its meetings.

“I think we should go ahead with the nonsectarian (option). I think it’s appropriate,” Masner said.

But Councilwoman Diane Smith, acknowledging the irony of her opinion, disagreed.

“I’m actually opposed, (which is) a surprise to my friends who sit next to me in church,” Smith said, asking what would be the purpose of having a prayer or moment of silence.

She said she was also concerned that allowing prayer during the public comment portion of the meeting could be more trouble than it would be worth.

“We could get witches praying to Satan,” Smith said. “I’m not in favor of this at all. We’re taking a risk” by allowing prayer.

While Councilwoman Denise Hoyt agreed with Smith, she said she wasn’t opposed to a moment of silence.

Councilman Greg Bogh agreed.

“Why are we asking for problems?” Mayor Dick Riddell said. “There is no way to control this. I think things have been working very well for over 20 years. (This is) asking for trouble.”

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