County board split on opening prayer
The debate over whether or not prayers should continue to be an opening part of county board meetings intensified on the morning of Dec. 11 when members of the DuPage County Board took to the floor to voice their widely different views on the subject.
The issue has become a burning one ever since Democrats won majorities on several fronts during November’s general election, moving them to instantly push to outlaw prayer at all county board meetings.
“I’m a Christian woman; I’m a Lutheran; you can find me at church just about every Saturday night,” Dawn DeSart, of Aurora, a Democrat from District 6, told fellow panel members. “Prayer is powerful, and I believe with my whole heart in the power of prayer. Yet I am disturbed by the primarily Christian prayers at the beginning of every DuPage County Board meeting. I respect other religions of the world.”
DeSart said she believes her view is one that President John F. Kennedy shared.
“Candidate Kennedy said whatever one’s religion in his private life may be for the office holder, nothing takes precedent over his oath to uphold the Constitution . . . and the strict separation of church and state,” she said. “It is in that spirit that my request for this board is that we stop the prayers at the beginning of our meetings.”
Robert Larson of Wheaton, a Republican who represents District 6, disagreed.
“While I appreciate Miss DeSart’s view, on that I respectfully disagree,” he said. “We have, as anyone who’s been a member of this board has observed, had members of the Jewish faith, Muslim faith and other faiths here to give the opening invocation. We welcome members of every faith to do that. I think it is an important recognition.”
A growing number of Democrats have proposed replacing the opening prayer with a moment of silence.