Skip to main content

Prayer and pledge approved

News Letter Journal - Staff Photo - Create Article
Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Invocation will return to council meetings

Despite a warning from City Attorney Dublin Hughes regarding inclusion of the invocation in the municipal code book, the Newcastle City Council approved an updated agenda ordinance on April 1. In addition to formalizing inclusion of an invocation, the updated agenda will also restructure the order of the meetings.

Before the vote to approve the change, Hughes explained that he thinks it is “fairly obvious” why you could not include the invocation in the actual municipal code book. He said that the invocation in the agenda would allow for anyone from any religion or secular belief to come to the council meeting and bring an invocation in.

While he acknowledged that the local demographic is Christian, anyone in the community, including an atheist, could come and give a nonreligious statement as an invocation. If this was not allowed, he said, it is possible for establishment clause litigation to result.

“That is probably why it is not in the ordinance book,” Hughes said.

He noted that it is fine for the council to leave the invocation in the ordinance, but it would require the body to observe “quite a few rules.”

Councilman Tom Voss asked if the council could have the invocation before the meeting, to which Hughes replied that this would be considered
“discussion” with a quorum present without the actual meeting being called to order. While he acknowledged that the invocation would not be an actual discussion, he said that someone could argue that it was.

The invocation was added to the proposed ordinance after the March 4 meeting after the council approved the updated ordinance on first reading. It was noted before approval by Mayor Pam Gualtieri that the council does not now do an invocation, or prayer, to start each meeting. She indicated that she is unsure when the council stopped beginning a meeting with an invocation or prayer, but said she would like to see it return.

(As previously reported by the News Letter Journal, the invocation was discontinued in 2019 at the suggestion of then-Mayor Deb Piana. The Weston County commissioners also removed prayer from their meetings at that time, although they voted to bring back the invocation in 2024.)

Despite Hughes’ concerns, the council had him include the invocation and approved the ordinance on third reading.

The entire agenda ordinance can be found in the legals section of this week’s paper.

The new agenda

(a) Invocation and pledge of allegiance

(b) Council approval of agenda

(c) Council amendment and approval of minutes of the last regular meeting and of all intervening special or emergency meetings

(d) Citizens’ oral business

(e) Citizens’ written business

(f) Old business

(g) New business

(h) Committee reports

(i) Department head reports

(j) Claims against the city

(k) Adjournment


Notes from the April 1, 2024, Newcastle City Council meeting

•Sandy Stevens with the Northeast Wyoming Advocacy and Resource Center, formerly FOCUS, updated the council on the agency’s intention to continue being open Monday through Friday and that in the last year, the center saw about 130 victims.

• Mayor Pam Gualtieri read a proclamation naming April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month

• Gualtieri also read a proclamation making April 14-20 National Public Safety Tele-communications Week.

• Public Works supervisor Greg Stumpff asked the council to declare landfill equipment as surplus so it can be sold to the Weston County Solid Waste District upon close of the Newcastle landfill.

• City Attorney Dublin Hughes reported that a complaint was filed against the city by Wyoming Workforce Services on behalf of former police chief Charles Bowles. The complaint, he said, was filed under the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bowles was removed from his position by the city council after an executive session on Oct. 2, 2023.

--- Online Subscribers: Please click here to log in to read this story and access all content.

Not an Online Subscriber? Click here to subscribe.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates