MAYVILLE – Despite an effort by a Jamestown-based lawmaker, the Chautauqua County Legislature will continue to recite the pledge of allegiance and have someone say prayer prior to the start of each legislative session.
On Wednesday night the legislature soundly defeated a resolution sponsored by Tim Hoyer (D-Jamestown) calling for the legislature to stop reciting the pledge and saying a prayer before each legislative session and replacing it with the New York State Oath of Office. Prior to the vote, Hoyer – who also serves as a Lutheran pastor in a local church – explained his reason for introducing the legislation.
- LISTEN TO COMMENTS FROM HOYER, BORELLO AND COUGHLIN
“Faith is important to people. And here we take our faith, whatever it is, for granted. So when we say a prayer here…our prayer’s are always Christian, not realizing there could be amongst us the Jew, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the atheist,” Hoyer explained. “In our New York State constitution, it says in the bill of rights that everyone has liberty of conscience. That no one will be forced to believe something or worship something they don’t believe in. So when we have a prayer here, we are forcing people to believe the way that we believe and not allowing others to have the freedom of conscience.”
However, the vast majority of lawmakers disregarded or disagreed with Hoyer’s reasoning, including George Borello (R-Hanover), who said that while the First Amendment says the government shall not establish any single religion, it also says that it shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion.
“That’s what this first amendment is about,” Borello said, adding, “Our founding fathers did not come to this nation because they wanted to cast away religion. No. They came here because they wanted to freely practice their religion without being persecuted. Millions and millions of people have come to this country over the past 200 years so that they can escape religious persecution.”
In the end the legislature overwhelmingly defeated Hoyer’s resolution by a vote of 18 to 5. Voting in support of the resolution were Hoyer, along with legislators William Coughlin (D-Fredonia), who was concerned with the legal implications that opening legislative session would have on the county, based on past Supreme Court Rulings; Tom Erlandson (D-Frewsburg); Rod Rogers (Green – Forestville); and Bob Whitney (D-Jamestown).
Both Vicki James (D-Jamestown) and Bob Duff (R-Sheridan) were absent from the vote.