STUART — City Commission meetings will begin with an invocation rather than a moment of silence after more than 40 people weighed in on the topic Monday night.
The commission voted 3-2, with Mayor Troy McDonald and Commissioner Campbell Rich dissenting, to implement the change, reversing an original decision by the commission to keep the moment of silence untouched. Public comment lasted more than two hours with most speakers in favor of prayer.
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The City Commission follows suit of other local governments that start meetings with prayer, including the Martin County Commission and Martin County School Board. The city initiative originally was brought forward by Commissioner Christopher Collins, who characterized prayer as “a beautiful thing.”
“I know it was a difficult decision. It was a very emotional decision for everybody involved, but I’m really proud of the commission,” Collins told TCPalm.
During the meeting, Mayor Troy McDonald noted his concern of people feeling compelled “to participate in a prayer that they don’t believe in,” he said.
“When you go to church, you’re not compelled to be there. You’re going because you want to be there, and I think that is how we should be doing it,” McDonald told TCPalm.
Invocations will be about three minutes and voluntarily led by clergy members from congregations “with an established presence” in the city, according to city records. The city clerk will create a database with eligible congregations and invite them to participate on an annual basis.