Town Board considering opening prayer for meetings

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is pitching a plan to start each Town Board meeting with a non-denominational prayer to be delivered by various local clergy members. He’s also looking into the possibility of appointing a chaplain to the Riverhead Police Department.
The supervisor said he met Monday with members of the Riverhead Clergy Council and was told they would supply clergy members at no cost.
“I understand the fire district has a member of the clergy council come in and do an invocation before their meetings,” Mr. Walter said at public Town Board work session Thursday. “I believe the state Senate does an invocation. The state Assembly does one. Congress does this.”
Mr. Walter said the invocation would follow the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited at the start of every board meeting. “We could make it open to any group or person that would want to do it,” he said.
“I just don’t want to be in any violation of separation of church and state,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “I don’t care either way. I pray every night with my children, but some people might not want to see that on channel 22.”
“I don’t see a downside to it,” Councilman Jim Wooten said.
“I say we roll the dice and see what the public says,” Mr. Walter said. “If it gets a tremendous amount of opposition, then we can reevaluate it.”
“I think there’s a lot of people in this town praying, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t be too,” Mr. Wooten said.
Mr. Walter said Deacon Michael Bonocore from St. Isidore’s R.C. Church in Riverhead has offered to be an unpaid chaplain for the police department. No one on the Town Board raised any objection to the proposal, and Mr. Walter said he would look into creating the position.
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