The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has rejected a proposal to begin regular meetings with prayer, following public testimony from both sides of the issue.
The proposal failed 5 to 2 on Monday, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.
Some of those speaking in favor of meeting prayers talked about the long-standing practice of legislative prayers in the nation. Some opponents said they would feel alienated by prayer at meetings and others said such a policy would discourage people from attending.
Gary Souza, who heads the Ketchikan Ministerial Association, spoke in favor of the proposal, saying no precedent would be set. The association was one of the drivers of the proposal.
"The real issue here is not whether or not precedent will be set," said Souza, minister at the Ketchikan Church of Christ. "The real issue is . . . whether or not you believe that in your personal wisdom, that you can make better decisions by yourself as this governing body than you can by appealing to almighty God. That's a rhetorical question. Of course you cannot."
One opponent, Donita O'Dell, said she is a Christian who values prayer. But she doesn't believe religious sides should be taken by government.
"The way I see it, we're not effectively representing the current and future diversity of our community," she said. "By instituting this we're going to be tearing the community apart, introducing division, and marginalizing and alienating minorities and non-religious citizens."
The assembly also rejected a proposed amendment to put the issue on the 2015 local ballot.
After the main proposal was turned down, local minister Bill White asked if he would be welcome to deliver a prayer during citizen comments.
Borough Mayor David Landis said he personally would enjoy hearing from White.
Landis said he has considerable leeway in what's allowed during public comments. But he added that he could be overruled by the assembly.