Invocations, Not Ideologies, on Monday’s School Board Agenda

Invocations Not Ideologies

A proposal to add an invocation at the beginning of its meetings is on the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting. But an expected policy on political ideologies is not.

That policy might still be discussed in board member comments at Monday’s meeting or addressed at a future meeting.

Collier County School Board
2023/24 Collier County School Board Members

Collier school board meetings begin with the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence. But the suggestion to begin school board meetings with an invocation is nothing new.

The board similarly considered it in 2015, but the vote was 3 to 2 against it. Current board chair Kelly Lichter, who was on the board at the time, and then-board member Erika Donalds supported the idea; then-board members Kathy Curatolo, Julie Sprague, and Roy Terry opposed it.

What is different now is the makeup of the board.

In this post, I review how the topic of invocations was placed on the agenda for the September board meeting and close with what I learned about what other legislative bodies do.

At the Aug. 8 School Board Meeting

At the Aug. 8, 2023, school board meeting, two public speakers addressed the issue at the beginning of the meeting.

Keith Flaugh, representing the Florida Citizens Alliance, said he was “formally requesting that you replace the one minute of silence with an invocation.”

Richard Battaglia, speaking with no affiliation, encouraged board members to incorporate “an official prayer of invocation” to start each session.

Later in the meeting, Erick Carter said the idea was “something I really would like to entertain.”

Stephanie Lucarelli said she was “not opposed” to the idea, although she said she had “some concerns.”

Jerry Rutherford, who had advocated for school prayer well before being elected to the school board, said, “I know a number of rabbis, priests, and pastors in this area, and I think that it’s good that they come in and give us a little bit of their time to bless us.”

What Congress Does

Senate and House chaplains open the daily sessions in their respective chambers with a prayer under Senate Rule IV and House Rule II.

According to Congressional Research Service: House and Senate Chaplains: An Overview, “The custom of opening legislative sessions with a prayer began in the Continental Congress, which elected Jacob Duché, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, to serve as its chaplain from 1774 to 1776. For most of their history, the House and the Senate have each elected a chaplain.”

What the Florida Legislature Does

Both chambers of the Florida Legislature open their sessions with an opening prayer.

According to Florida Senate Rules, prayer is the second order of business, following roll call and preceding the pledge of allegiance. According to House Rules, prayer precedes roll call and the pledge of allegiance.

What the Collier County Board of County Commissioners Does

Board of County Commissioners meetings also begin with an invocation and pledge of allegiance.

At the Sep. 11 School Board Meeting

At the Sep. 11 board meeting, the board will hear public comments on the subject and then discuss agenda item F1: Invocations at Board Meetings.

See the meeting agenda here.

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