Towns Welcome Citizens With Civil Invocation

03/05/13 7:50AM By Mitch Wertlieb, Melody Bodette
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AP/Toby Talbot
Citizens take the oath of allegiance before the start of town meeting in Elmore.

On Town Meeting Day this year in Franklin, there will no longer be a town prayer as a result of a lawsuit brought by a local resident and the ACLU of Vermont. At last year's Town Meeting Moderator Timothy Magnant apologized for not including the prayer. 

"We usually start with a prayer. But that's not going to happen this year, with respect to our honorable judge Martin Maley to make a decision on this in our Vermont Superior Court. We're just not going to do it this year in hope that we can continue the process another year," Magnant said. 

But the traditional prayer will not be revived, a judge ruled against the town, and the prayer had to be dropped.

While prayers may have once been common, many towns left them behind years ago. And the Vermont League of Cities and Towns says some communities use a civil invocation. To find out more about the civil invocation, we're speaking with Susan Clark, moderator in the town of Middlesex, and co-author of "All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community."

Clark explains the civil invocation to VPR's Mitch Wertlieb.

Click listen to hear the interview.

Clark provided the text of Middlesex's civil invocation:

"Welcome to Middlesex Town Meeting.
 
We have come together in civil assembly, as a community, in a tradition that is older than our state itself.
 
We come together to make decisions about our community.
 
As we deliberate, let us advocate for our positions, but not at the expense of others.
 
Let us remember that there is an immense gap between saying 'I am right' and saying 'I believe I am right.' 
And that our neighbors with whom we disagree are good people with hopes and dreams as true and as high as ours.
 
And let us always remember that, in the end, caring for each other, in this community, is of far greater importance than any difference we may have.
 
Welcome."

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