Prayer returns to council meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Monday night, before the official start of the regular city council meeting, the Rev. John Holt of First Lutheran Church spoke a prayer into the microphone.

It was the beginning of a new policy for the Albert Lea City Council.

Mayor Jean Eaton read a statement to the council and the public saying that she was reintroducing a policy the city council had in the early 1970s under mayor Buzz Hagen: having a prayer spoken by an area minister prior to each meeting.

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In the mid ’70s, the prayer was removed because ministers weren’t showing up to the meetings.

Eaton said the Freeborn County Ministerial Association will have a rotation of pastors to pray before the start of each meeting.

Eaton and the council received a strong public response against a decision made earlier this month to take the Serenity Prayer off the agenda. The prayer had been said by councilor and pastor George Marin at the beginning of each meeting since last year.

Two city councilors addressed the issue at Monday’s meeting.

Randy Erdman, the second-ward city councilman, said he regretted there wasn’t a public vote on the issue in the first place, but said the public outcry should have been directed at the council as well as the mayor. Eaton removed the prayer from the agenda without an official council vote, though most of the council members privately gave their support.

&uot;I feel I deserve some of the heat on this issue,&uot; Erdman said. He continued by saying that support needs to be given to Eaton.

&uot;We all need to get behind our council and our mayor,&uot; he said.

Sixth-ward councilman Al &uot;Minnow&uot; Brooks also said he thought the council should have taken an equal share of the blame .

&uot;I thought the criticism for our mayor was uncalled for,&uot; he said.

Both the councilmen and Eaton said they’d like to move on from the issue after the decision to bring back a prayer before every council meeting.

&uot;We need to end it and focus on the things ahead of us,&uot; Eaton said after the meeting. &uot;We have the budget, the tax free zones and economic development; we just need to move beyond it.&uot;