ACLU opposes Miami-Dade Commission proposal to reinstate pre-meeting prayers

The ACLU of Florida on Wednesday formally opposed a proposal to reinstate opening prayers at Miami-Dade Commission meetings.

The proposal, by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, is scheduled for a final vote Tuesday.

In a letter to commissioners, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon and John de Leon, president of the organization’s Greater Miami chapter, urged commissioners to keep their opening moment of silence, warning that prayer could be “divisive” and lead to a possible lawsuit.

“Inevitably, as the Commission has experienced in the past, some religious leader will offer an invocation that may genuinely be intended not to ‘advance any particular faith,’ but which will not be so interpreted by members of the community who are in attendance and who may be made to feel uncomfortable, marginalized and like second-class citizens of our community because their religious views differ from those offered by the Commission-invited religious leader,” the letter says.

Diaz’s proposal would require the county to create a database of local religious leaders who would be limited to the number of invocations they could deliver at the county each year. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration estimates that setting up the database would cost $22,000, with about $4,000 in annual maintenance costs.