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Riverhead votes to keep prayer at board sessions

Riverhead Town Hall on May 23, 2013.

Riverhead Town Hall on May 23, 2013. Credit: Newsday

For the foreseeable future, the use of prayers to open Riverhead Town Board meetings will continue.

The board Tuesday voted 5-0 to adopt a written policy continuing the practice of opening its meetings with a nondenominational prayer. 

The policy, which the board formally adopted in March 2015, was questioned recently when town Supervisor Sean Walter was told by Supervisor-elect Laura Jens-Smith that she was not in favor of continuing the practice in the future.

Jens-Smith previously said she felt the prayers veered too closely toward the issue of separating church and state and were not needed to open every town vote. 

However, the board felt differently.

“Prayer before town board meetings really gave me a brief timeout to reflect on why we are there,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio before the meeting.

The board’s unanimous vote ensures the prayers will continue for the time being, although Jens-Smith has said she would continue the discussion with the board over the ritual after she takes office next month. 

“I was worried about this because I think the supervisor should make that determination, but I’ll vote yes,” Councilman John Dunleavy said during the vote. 

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