Parkersburg mayor reacts to ruling blocking prayer ahead of city council meeting

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Mayor Tom Joyce said Parkersburg City Council will honor a federal judge’s order which forbids the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer ahead of council meetings.  But the mayor doesn’t believe the exercise was hurting anybody.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce

“I’m disappointed. The city council has been saying the Lord’s Prayer before city council meetings for 40 years. I think it’s another example of people getting their feelings hurt by words,” Joyce told MetroNews Wednesday.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver came in a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organization, based in Madison, Wisconsin, sued the city in 2018. They based their case on the grounds of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The clause forbids a government favoring one religion over others.

Joyce said he understood the ruling, but doubts anybody was truly offended.

“If they were truly offended by the Lord’s Prayer, then they could simply not enter the room or not participate. But unfortunately we live in a society where it’s easy to sue,” he said.Joyce said he prays daily and will for as long as he has the mental capacity to do so. He predicted members of the council will also keep praying about the work they do on behalf of the citizens of Parkersburg.

“Prayer will always be part of my life and I think it will always be part of most of our elected officials’ lives. We’ll just have to go about it in a manner than doesn’t offend the Freedom From Religion Foundation,” Joyce said.

Judge Copenhaver issued a permanent injunction against the reciting of the prayer and awarded the plaintiffs $1 in damages.

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