CHARLESTON -- Coles County Board members have reached a consensus on keeping the board's meeting prayer but also having a moment of silence as a regular part of meetings.

That's what Chairman Mike ZuHone said Wednesday about how the board will deal with the issue, which stemmed from a request to replace the invocation altogether.

Representatives of both sides of the issue expressed satisfaction with the development.

During the board's meeting on Tuesday, ZuHone added a moment of silence to the agenda and also delivered the invocation, which has been part of the board's meetings for decades.

On Wednesday, he said he's talked with the board's 11 other members and "we all agreed with the way it was handled." None of the members favored completely replacing the invocation with a moment of silence, he said.

"Observing the moment of silent reflection allows for the recognition of the diversity of all individuals as to their beliefs and practices," ZuHone said.

Technically, at this point, the request to replace the invocation is still in the hands of the board's Offices and Rules Committee. The committee tabled the request and scheduled it for additional consideration at its next meeting on April 1.

ZuHone said he expects the committee to address the issue again but, based on the board members' feelings, he doesn't think it will recommend any changes.

People on both sides of the issue addressed the board during Tuesday's meeting, just as they did last month and at the last Offices and Rules Committee meeting on March 25.

The group making the request has noted that the board's prayer never mentions any religion other than Christianity.

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A board member leads the prayer at most meetings, though it's sometime another county official, and the phrase "in Jesus' name we pray" is often included.

During Tuesday's meeting, group member Annalisa Switzer praised ZuHone's move to add the moment of silence. ZuHone ended the prayer by saying it was "in your holy name."

On Wednesday, the board's apparent consensus to continue with that approach is something "I'm satisfied with at this point," Switzer said.

"In my eyes, we raised awareness," she said. "They're listening to us. They could have just stood pat and they didn't."

She added that she hasn't spoken with other members of the group about the development and therefore wasn't sure what they might do next.

Daniel Haifley, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Mattoon, called having both a prayer and a moment of silence "a great step."

"Rather than exclude us, we include them," said Haifley who spoke against the change Tuesday and at last week's committee meeting. He said he sees the prayer as a blessing on everyone.

"Why would anyone have a problem with that?" he said.

Haifley added that a meeting prayer based on a religion other than Christianity would "be up to the individual doing the praying."

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Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave



Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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