City council meetings in Rapid City have started with a prayer for as long as anybody in the community can remember. But the practice is coming under attack from a group that says the prayers are unconstitutional.
"It's ridiculous because this is something that we've been doing around our country and in South Dakota for many, many years," Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter asking the city to stop the prayers, which are usually led by various Christian pastors from around the community.
"We invite all religions to come and say a prayer so it's not like we're limiting it to Christian, but in our area Christian is the dominant religion," City Council President Bonny Petersen said.
Although the City Council President says she supports the continuation of prayers before meetings, Petersen says she acknowledges that not everybody shares her views.
“I've had several people tell me that they were uncomfortable with prayer in this environment and so I'm cognizant that it's not for everyone," Petersen said.
Now, the city's attorney is working on drafting an ordinance that could make the prayers official city practice.
"There will be plenty of opportunity for notice and comment and for those who have concerns to come forward and to say we believe that this is a practice that should continue or end," Kooiker said.
But the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation told KELOLAND News on the phone that if the prayers continue the city could end up in court.
"I would prefer to avoid a legal battle but there simply isn't support for ending the prayers at council meetings and I do not support ending the prayers," Kooiker said.
Although prayers don't precede governmental meetings in every community across South Dakota, there are prayers at each city council meeting in Sioux Falls and every day that the state legislature is in session in Pierre.
The Rapid City City Council will take up the issue at its meeting Monday night, which is set to begin at 6:30 local time with a prayer.