Reno City Council asked to resume opening prayer

RENO — Religious leaders want the Reno City Council to once again begin meetings with a prayer, a tradition that has been replaced with a moment of silence in recent years because of concerns about the constitutional separation of church and state.

Universal Society of Hinduism President Rajan Zed and a dozen other leaders of different religions told Reno Mayor Bob Cashell on Tuesday that invocations are standard practice at many city councils across Nevada, including Las Vegas, Carson City, Henderson, Boulder City, Sparks and North Las Vegas.

Representatives of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Wiccan beliefs also said they believe they can pass constitutional muster by offering prayers that don’t speak to a specific religion.

“It does take a little more skill or creative thinking to create an invocation that’s good for all religions without pushing any one particular religion,” said Ellyn Darrah of the Children of Temple Earth, a network of Wiccans and pagans in Northern Nevada.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments on the question of public prayers at a town council in New York state, but in that case, a federal appeals court had found the opening prayers to be unconstitutional in part because they were almost exclusively offered by Christians.

Zed said the Reno coalition wants all religions to get a chance to provide the invocation.

“We don’t have to be afraid of hearing others’ voices,” said Matthew Fisher of the Reno Buddhist Center. “If we have a logical system, we can have fairness and rotate through it.”

Cashell said it was premature to discuss the issue with the group without asking for it to be placed on the council agenda in accordance with the state open-meeting law.