A Port Hueneme man has asked the City Council to drop the opening prayer that has been part of Council meetings as long as most participants can recall.
"As an atheist, I protest these opening prayers as unconstitutional," said Charles A. Wilson in a May 6 letter. "I request that you cease from having prayers at all future City Council meetings." Wilson could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but several council members--all Protestant churchgoers--said they do not want the city's policy changed.
"I don't think it's a big deal," said Councilwoman Toni Young. "We're talking about five individuals saying a little something so that (the city's business will) go well. We're just recognizing that there is a higher power.
"Call it him, God, Jehovah," Young added. "You can call it a million different things."
Port Hueneme City Atty. Don Kircher said he had investigated the legality of the council's prayers, but he would not discuss the matter until he first spoke with the council at tonight's 7:30 p.m. meeting.
"(Wilson) is trying to get everyone else to conform with his ideas, and that is minority rule," said Councilman Ken Hess, who has served on the board for 11 years. "As long as Congress has a chaplain and an occasional prayer, I see no problem in us continuing with our prayers," Hess said.
Buttressing his argument for forbidding prayers at city meetings, Wilson cited a June, 1992, case in Santa Rosa where a protester was arrested for interrupting that city's council prayer. Charges of disrupting a public assembly and disturbing the peace were later dropped against the man, and the council ceased the practice of beginning meetings with an invocation.