The Arkansas chapter of the ACLU says it is satisfied with North Little Rock's response to a complaint about the sectarian prayers that have routinely opened City Council meetings.
The city attorney met with city council members to discuss the law, the importance of being an inclusive community, the history of prayer before city council meetings, and the personal nature of prayer. The city responded to the ACLU and indicated that it would use a system of rotational prayer that would include other faiths as well as non-sectarian prayer. In addition, the city opted to include a statement on future city agendas and broadcasts of meetings that the city welcomes diverse cultures and beliefs and that any religious viewpoints expressed during the invocation or at any other time during city council meetings reflected only the personal opinion of the speaker and was not intended to proselytize, advance or disparage any particular faith.
After receiving the response of the city attorney, the ACLU reaffirmed its opinion the council’s practice of offering a sectarian prayer runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution because when only one sectarian viewpoint is routinely expressed, it has the purpose and effect of advancing one faith or belief to the exclusion of others. However, the ACLU’s interest and that of the concerned residents was to see that the practice was no longer the status quo for the city. While the ACLU felt that the better policy would be to recognize that
any prayer by city officials sends the wrong message to a diverse citizenry, it recognized that the law permits non-sectarian prayer.