Future Marathon County board meetings could start with a moment of prayer, if a proposed rules change is approved.
The proposal, presented by new board member Jack Hoogendyk, a former Republican Michigan state legislator, would include time for a short invocation by board members. The proposal goes before the county’s rules committee and would require a two-thirds majority of the county's 38-member board.
Roughly half of the counties in the state surveyed said they have some kind of invocation prior to county board meetings, according to county documents. Some of those are prayers, while others are moments of silence.
The Supreme Court in 2014 upheld 5-4 that prayer before public meetings doesn't violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on the establishment of a state-sponsored religion. The court held that the practice is acceptable as long as it is sectarian, and no particular religion is advanced or disparaged.
Board member Matt Bootz said he would rather see a moment of silence, saying he’s a firm believer in separation of church and state. “You want to pray, fine. You want to think about other things, fine,” Bootz says.
The rule change comes at a time when the county has plenty on its plate. The board is facing a multi-million deficit, is working on implementing a new addressing grid, is facing a crisis with North Central Health Care and is under fire for its suspension of County Administrator Brad Karger for participating in a peace march.