Miami Gardens needs prayer.
That is the message Bishop Billy Baskin will take with him into City Hall on Friday where he is scheduled to pray for the elected officials, employees and the community at large.
The prayer is part of a county-wide movement by Mission Miami, a group of local Christian leaders, who say it their calling “to take the whole Gospel to the whole city.” At 11 a.m. Friday, the group will lead simultaneous prayers at city halls and communities from Homestead to North Dade, according to organizers.
“We are commanded from God to pray for our leaders so that they can lead righteously. When the righteous lead the people are blessed,” said Baskin of New Way Fellowship Church.
At least one Miami Gardens council person is questioning if the prayer should happen during city work hours and if the city is opening itself up to similar requests by other groups.
“What about when the next person wants to come in next week at 1 p.m. and another at 2 p.m.? What about the employees who have to work?” said Vice Mayor Lisa Davis “We need to be careful with this.”
It is unclear if city employees will be allowed to attend the prayer session.
Davis said she was open to prayer invitations after work hours. “If they want to pray before the council meeting or if they want to invite us to their church that would be great,” she said.
Miami Gardens is not alone. Mission Miami organizer David Vega said Hialeah and Doral will also host the prayer meeting at their respective city halls.
Experts agree that once Miami Gardens and other cities open their doors to Mission Miami, they cannot then close them to other religious groups without a possible lawsuit.
“It’s certainly the case that if such a prayer meeting were allowed, there would be no basis for the city government to deny the same opportunity to another religion. To Catholicism, to Judaism, to a Muslim prayer group,” said Professor Stanley Fish, a law professor at Florida International University.
The ACLU’s Greater Miami chapter warned that city time should not be used for sectarian prayer.
“In general, the Greater Miami chapter of the ACLU believe that city time should be invested in city business and that cities should stay out of religion.” said Jeff Borg, president of the Miami chapter.
Baskin acknowledges that there are some people who might feel uncomfortable with the prayer meeting at city hall, but he said the opposition will not deter him.
“As a believing nation, to say prayer has no place in government is derelict,” he said. “It has a great place. If you don’t believe prayer is power, then why worry about it? Why oppose it?”