Small village near Canton wrestles with council prayer issue

HARTVILLE, Ohio - A small northeast Ohio community with deep Mennonite and Amish roots is wrestling with whether the village council should begin meetings with a prayer.

Mayor Beverly Green has rejected the prayer suggestion from new Councilman Scot Bohaychyk, who said most residents in the village of about 2,100 people support the idea. Green said a council prayer might violate the constitutional separation between church and state.

Prayer supporters cite the fact that Congress and the Legislature open sessions with a prayer, as do nearby Akron, Canton and North Canton city councils.

The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union gets about one complaint a month about the issue.

"Our position on this is that organized prayer run by or associated by the government is unconstitutional," said Gary Daniels, litigation coordinator for the Ohio chapter of the ACLU.

The mayor said she might offer a compromise -- leading off meetings with a moment of silence.

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