- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Phoenix City Council has voted to restore spoken prayers before meetings, after abruptly canceling the practice.

The council on Wednesday vote 7-2 to allow invocations with the condition that they are given exclusively by fire or police department chaplains.

The vote comes after heated debate sparked when a member of a Tucson-based group called The Satanic Temple was scheduled to deliver the prayer before the council’s Feb. 17 meeting. Ahead of that meeting, the council voted to opt for silent prayer instead of an invocation, effectively blocking the Satanic Temple member.

Members of the temple said they don’t worship Satan but invoke the name as a metaphor in opposing what they call religious tyranny.

The council reconsidered the silent treatment after two residents submitted a petition calling for the invocation to be restored. Councilman Jim Waring motioned that the council approve the petition with an amendment requiring that the city’s police or fire chaplains only give the prayer.

Though the council voted to restore spoken prayer instead of silent reflection, council members will have to vote again on a specific ordinance to make the rule change official. A final vote is expected in a few weeks.

“I think we’re in a good place, but the fight is not done yet,” Waring said after the vote. “I feel like the last vote was hasty … we should work harder to try and preserve something that was important to a lot of people.”

Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego opposed the vote on Wednesday, arguing that if the council allows prayers, the U.S. Constitution requires all religious traditions to be invited to participate.

City Attorney Brad Holm said the new policy will likely stand up in court, as other similar cases have been upheld by judges, but that the new ordinance could still be challenged.

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