ANNAPOLIS -- The Anne Arundel County Council has decided to abandon its long-standing practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer before each meeting, because of complaints from constituents.
"The issue has been debated for a long, long time," said Councilwoman Maureen T. Lamb, D-6th, who supported the move. "There have been quite a few people who objected to it on the constitutional grounds of separation of church and state."
Councilman David G. Boschert, D-4th, said the council decided in a private meeting two weeks ago to opt for a period of silence, rather than the Protestant version of the Lord's Prayer, to begin each of its legislative sessions.
Mr. Boschert said he still believes "there should be some religious presence" in the council meetings, buthe backed the council's ruling anyway.
The council has not been threatened with legal action over the practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer, and "as far as I know, the council has
never asked for a formal legal opinion on it," said David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney.
The decision to forgo the Christian prayer ends a practice of more than a quarter-century for the seven-member council, dating back to the early 1960s when the county was governed by a board of commissioners, said Theodore J. Sophocleus of Linthicum.
"I think they need all the divine guidance they can get," said Mr. Sophocleus, a former council member and prayer supporter.
"Maryland is a religious state and that carried onto its government. It was a tradition and something that was always done," he said.
At the start of the council's Monday night meeting, Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-7th, kicked off what could become a new tradition by invoking a moment of silence.
In the future, some council members said, they will ask clergy of various faiths to offer opening prayers as a compromise.
"It's not like any of us don't want the Lord's Prayer. We just want other faiths represented," Mr. Boschert said.