Man wants prayer at school board meetings

Posted at 11:08 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 06:29:15-04

NAPLES, Fla. - A Naples man delivered thousands of signed petitions to the Collier County School Board Tuesday night.  Jerry Rutherford is asking board members to hold a prayer, rather than a moment of silence, before each school board meeting.

"It would be local pastors and layman that want to participate," said Rutherford. He adds that clergy representing different denominations could rotate for each meeting.

Rutherford says several state legislatures and Congress start their meetings out with a prayer, and he thinks the Collier school board should join in.

He says 2,200 people who signed his petition agree with him.  "I individually got out and saw business owners, veterans, local people, middle class, wealthy people and some government officials and got signatures from them."

The school board discussed the idea of an invocation at a workshop last fall, but ultimately decided against it.

Member Kelly Lichter voted for bringing back the prayer.  "I think they feel a moment of silence is sufficient, and I think it is fear and that our country is going away from its founding principles."

Rutherford says prayer was a big part of his life when he went to school.  But the Collier County School system is diverse, with parents, students and staff of all different religious backgrounds who may object to hearing a prayer before the meeting.

"I'm not going to fuss at someone because I don't agree with them," said Rutherford. "They have a right to do what they want to do, they also have an obligation to listen to my part."

School Board Chair Julie Sprague declined a request for an interview.

Rutherford says if the board doesn't act on his petition, he'll support candidates running for school board this fall that will.