Board of supervisors codifies invocation at meetings

The board of supervisors votes four to one to implement a prayer policy allowing residents of all backgrounds to present an invocation before each meeting

VISALIA – For the first time, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the addition of an invocation at each meeting just before the flag salute.

At the March 14 board of supervisors meeting members decided on creating a prayer program that is inclusive not only to congregations, but to all organizations secular and non-secular. The vote to implement the program passed four to one, with district three supervisor Amy Shuklian as the only no vote. Dennis Townsend, supervisor for district five, initiated the policy when he asked the board to consider instituting a legislative prayer program at the end of February.

“Thank you all that put your time and effort into this because I know you took a lot of different opinions and options and put those all together in a way that I thought really was pretty fantastic,” Townsend said at the March 14 meeting.

This will be the first time the Tulare County Board of Supervisors have had implemented a prayer program. As a board, the supervisors wanted to make sure this program was made available to everyone. The invocation policy makes it known that the policy will not be executed in a way that would affiliate or express a preference by the board toward any particular faith or religious denomination. It is intended to do just the opposite and welcome all without preference.

“This policy is intended to acknowledge and express the Board of Supervisors’ respect for the diversity of beliefs and faiths represented and practiced among the residents of Tulare County,” the policy stated.

Any individual who wishes to participate in an invocation before the start of a meeting will have the opportunity to sign up for any date they wish. Each meeting will then be granted on a first come first serve basis. If an individual must cancel their date of invocation, or fails to show up 15 minutes prior to the meeting, a moment of silence will be had instead.

Each speaker will have one and a half minutes for their invocation. And according to the policy, the Clerk of the Board shall maintain and update the schedule of invocational speakers. Shuklian said she voted no because of the added work that would be given to the county clerk in order to keep this up and running. According to Shuklian it would be putting more work on the clerk, which she already has enough work to do.

“I now have more concerns as far as the clerk of the board and her staff as far as organizing this and it becoming very cumbersome for them,” Shuklian said. “So I just wanted to make that comment and that it will be the reason why I will not be supporting this plan.”

Also listed in the policy is that the clerk of the board will make “every reasonable effort” to ensure that a variety of eligible invocational speakers are the ones that are scheduled. Additionally, those who do not wish to stand for the invocation are not required to.

“There is absolutely no requirement for participation in the invocation by any member of the Board of Supervisors, County employees, or member of the public,” the policy stated.

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