MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s the way all commission meetings have started in Miami-Dade for the last eight years.
“Would everyone stand for a moment of silence,” the commission chairperson announces.
Now that moment of silence may no longer golden. Tuesday during an hour long debate the county agreed 8 to 3 to bring prayer back.
Against the ordinance was Sally Heyman. She told her colleagues, “I have no choice but to vote against this.”
Heyman quoted Thomas Jefferson maintaining government and religion should be kept separate.
“It is discriminatory and unfair to members of this community who we all represent to be subjected to a religious point a view to which they may disagree,” Heyman said.
Eight of her colleagues though, including newly elected commission chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, disagreed. The law passed with a couple of guidelines including whoever leads the prayer cannot reference a particular religion.
“We don’t want to see someone coming in front of the commission preaching, in favor of a specific religion. So, we need to have a controlled environment,” Sosa explained.
“You could call it the first amendment, sort of? CBS4’s David Sutta asked. “That’s right,” Sosa confirmed.
The new law is mirrored after what’s done at the state and federal level. The prayer will be done prior to the start of commission meetings. The thought was those who didn’t want to pray could step out or show up during roll call, after the prayer.
“Those who doesn’t want to pray they don’t have too. No one can force you to do so. And those who want to pray are going to be there,” Sosa said.
It’s not that simple though according to Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The issue here is not whether there should be prayer but in what form it takes place,” Simon said.
The ACLU is one of many organizations taking issue with the law. CBS4 were told today the moment God is brought up the county is subject to a lawsuit.
Simon explained, “That ordinance is almost a road map for how to sue the county. And we are not in control of anything.”
The new prayer ordinance will be put to it’s first test when commission meets in two weeks. The ACLU promises to be at the meeting, monitoring what is said.