Winter Garden leaders vote to keep opening prayer in meetings

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — Winter Garden city leaders voted Thursday night to reinstate the opening prayer at the start of commission meetings.

In a four to one vote, leaders said they will again allow a prayer before public commission meetings.

Many residents attended the meeting and were split on the issue.

“Don’t make these public board meetings into public circuses,” said Orlando resident Warren Getler.

“That’s what you ladies and gentlemen are here for: to conduct business, not have a religious ceremony,” said resident Paul Jayden.

The city stopped the practice last year after one man was kicked out of a meeting because he didn’t want to participate in prayer.

The man wanted to make sure the city complied with federal guidelines regarding prayer.

He was asked to leave after he failed to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

The mayor later apologized and the city stopped opening prayers and instead went with a moment of silence, but that changed Thursday night.

Those who wish to give the opening invocation must submit a request at City Hall.

The city manager will compile and maintain a database to give anyone of any religion the opportunity.

“We embrace diversity. We support diversity. And to allow many ideas to come before the people of Winter Garden, our city commission meetings, is the most fair we could do,” said Winter Garden City Commissioner Bobby Olszewski.

For those who don’t like the mixture of church and state, the mayor said, “You can step out of the room for thirty seconds, or you can sit and listen to it.”