- Associated Press - Saturday, April 15, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will continue to allow prayer at the beginning of its meetings after voting down a measure to stop the nonsectarian invocation.

The measure failed in a 4-5 vote Thursday and came after hours of public testimony and debate, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/2ohDfYw).

Three of the assembly members who voted in favor of the measure - Shaun Tacke, Andrew Gray and Christopher Quist - introduced the proposal last month, saying it would make assembly meetings more inclusive and reflective of the community as a whole.

“I want everyone to feel welcomed here and not judged,” Gray said. “Anyone is still free to pray on their own at any time.”

But some residents who spoke out at the meeting said they believed in God and wanted to keep the opening prayer to possibly inspire those without religious beliefs.

“What are we afraid of?” asked Doug Duffett, pastor at Bible Baptist Church. “We are talking about praying to the God of heaven and asking for wisdom.”

The Fairbanks proposal follows changes to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s invocation policy, which now allows only invocations from members of religious organizations that meet regularly and have established local presences. The changes came after a member of the Satanic Temple gave the invocation at an August meeting.

There is an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska calling the Kenai Peninsula Borough policy unconstitutional.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will hold another meeting to discuss its invocation policy at a later date. Assemblyman John Davies said he has drafted an ordinance that defines nonsectarian invocation in the borough code as inspirational remarks.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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