ELKINS - Local officials expressed support for the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 vote Monday allowing city councils and other public boards to begin their meetings with prayers.
The Court rejected the idea that prayer at a government meeting violates the Constitution, even if the prayers stress Christianity.
"As mayor of the fine city of Elkins, we are thankful for the Supreme Court confirming our constitutional right for town council meetings to open with prayer," Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said Monday. "Our country's founding fathers relied upon prayer and it is to our benefit to ask for wisdom and guidance from our God, for our city. This day and this ruling is the beginning of our nation once again being called 'one nation under God!'"
Randolph County Commissioners Mike Taylor and Chris See said the Commission began having prayer before their meetings last year and will continue to begin each meeting with a prayer.
"I think it answers the question that we are not violating any law by doing it. We started doing it six to eight months ago and will continue to open our meetings with prayer," said Commissioner Mike Taylor. "I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever."
Randolph County Commission President Chris See echoed those sentiments, adding that he was happy to see the decision reached.
"I think it is a good thing to have it. I know there is separation between church and state but we are going to continue to do the prayer," said See. "I know they have been fighting this for a while and this is good news.
"I do support the prayer in the meeting. We changed it from a moment of silent meditation to a prayer about a year ago. It is something the commission voted to do."
In late summer of 2013, West Virginia joined with 22 other states in an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that declared a New York town's practice of opening its town council sessions with prayer was a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Cause.
Tucker County Commission President Mike Rosenau said he felt the Supreme Court decision was wonderful.
"We here in Tucker County are excited with the decision to allow prayer to kick off each meeting," Rosenau said. "We always try to follow the law, and had been inviting clergy of all faiths to lead us in prayer before our meetings are called to order. Now, we can once again begin our meetings with prayer."
"Personally, I want to thank the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding the Christian values held by West Virginians," Rosenau said.
Parsons Mayor Dorothy Judy also said she was delighted by the decision.
"It is a shame prayer was ever considered to be removed from meetings," she said. "Praise the Lord we have that right back. I am glad that common sense has prevailed."
Buckhannon Mayor Kenny Davidson said that he knew the issue was pending before the Supreme Court.
"They ruled that even Christian prayer at a council meeting is OK," Davidson said. "I think it reinforces what we've been doing and the various e-mails, phone calls and comments on the street that I have been receiving. I'm sure we'll go back to what we did: observe a moment of silence."
Buckhannon City Council last met on May 1, when the meeting was opened with a moment of silence. Davidson said it "lets anybody do whatever they want to do." Davidson said during the moment of silence he will personally say a prayer to guide Council in that its decisions are "approved by God." He added that his prayers are made in the name of Jesus Christ.
"I, for one, certainly respect all faiths," Davidson said. "I am a Christian, but that doesn't mean that someone that serves their god in another fashion is wrong. I'm not wise enough to put God in a box that size."
Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said Philippi City Council hasn't opened meetings with prayer, to the best of his knowledge, since Rev. Bob Wilkinson was a council member.
"It wasn't the practice, I don't think, with the former mayor, and it hasn't been a practice since I've been mayor," Mouser said. "I don't have any plans on starting that practice."
Philippi City Council meetings usually open with a call to order followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I don't plan on doing it (opening with a prayer)," Mouser said. "I haven't had any request for it, so I don't plan on doing it. I don't have anything against it, I'm just not going to add it to there."
The Upshur County Commission plans to maintain its current practice of opening meetings, officials said.
"The Upshur County Commission has traditionally opened its sessions with a moment of silent meditation and prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance," Commission President J.C. Raffety said. "This practice is consistent and in keeping with previous U.S. Supreme Court opinions. Speaking personally, I welcome the Supreme Court's recent opinion."
The Barbour County Commission usually opens meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes during a special occasion there will be a moment of silence, Barbour County Commission President Tim McDaniel said.
"I have no problem with it; I really don't," McDaniel said of Monday's Supreme Court decision. "I have no problem with prayer. It's fine. It's probably a good idea to start out."