Woodbury, NJ (WTXF) - Woodbury City Council meetings will no longer have an invocation following the Pledge of Allegiance to start off meetings.
FOX 29's Shawnette Wilson reports.
"It's something that you were brought up with and it's your faith," said Jacqueline Robinson. She's upset that Woodbury City Council meetings will no longer have an invocation following the Pledge of Allegiance to start off meetings. It's been replaced with a moment of reflection.
" You're not singling out one faith. You're praying to God so whatever God you want to use or pray to that's what is and what harm has it done all these years?" she said. Mark Simmons is the pastor of North Baptist Church in town.
"I'm very displeased with their decision," said Simmons. He attended a previous meeting where the decision was announced and says it was respectful but he disagrees.
"If you want to be technical the invocation prayer was when they invite clergy to come and pray for council so they make wise and Godly decisions. What they're doing is removing that. That's a help for them the council," he said. Mayor Jessica Floyd says the action is being misunderstood by many after hearing some residents speak during public comment at tonight's regular monthly meeting.
"We didn't take anything away we just opened it up more by having quiet reflection you can pray to whatever or you don't' have to pray." Mayor Floyd says the change is more inclusive.
"This way you can do whatever you like, pray to whatever God you want, whatever religion you practice, you can sit silent or you can look on your phone," she said. The Mayor says the issue arose in October of last year with an ordinance to make Woodbury more welcoming to everyone. The town formed a Human Rights Commission to look at things the city could do to improve diversity and inclusion. The commission recommended the change from invocation to moment of reflection which certain council members implemented.
Council member Ken McIlvaine said he was against it but told a resident he has had a change of heart.
"You and I are Christians and we have a minister from the first satanic church come up here and give an invocation that you and I would oppose. Would you be offended? The answer is yes. We can do as Christians what we need to do silently here without offending anyone," he said.
Another councilmember spoke and said he agrees with making the town more inclusive but wishes they had more time to discuss the issue.