Committee chairman wants prayer to open meetings

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2002

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) -- The new chairman of the school committee wants to begin each board meeting with a prayer.

Edward Boucher said he needs God's help in his job and plans on asking for it even if others don't think it's appropriate.

''I think since the incidents of Sept. 11, there is a greater need to seek the Lord's guidance, particularly in deliberating the affairs of the school committee,'' Boucher said. ''The events were caused, basically, by religious intolerance.''

The school committee is expected to vote on the issue Jan. 9. The policy change requires two votes to take effect.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said prayers at school committee meetings is unconstitutional and violates the separation of church and state.

''Reinstitution of this practice would send a message to nonadherents and others that they are outsiders in your community,'' wrote Stephen Brown, executive director of the ACLU's Rhode Island chapter, in a letter to schools Superintendent Anthony D'Acchioli.

In 1999, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-to-1 that prayer could not be used to start Cleveland Board of Education meetings.

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