New practice will replace Mayor Martin asking for everyone to rise for a "moment of silent prayer."

The Crookston City Council Monday evening, at its Ways & Means Committee meeting, unanimously approved implementing the practice of standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each council meeting.


The matter was not on the agenda. At the end of the committee meeting's agenda and before diving back into department-by-department 2020 budget discussions, Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier, under the "Other" portion of the agenda, made the motion to have the council recite the Pledge.


Before a vote, City Finance Director Angel Weasner advised Mayor Guy Martin and the council that the American Civil Liberties Union does not recommend that city councils recite the Pledge of Allegiance and that a lawsuit could potentially result. The ACLU's position, Weasner said, is that doing so is "inappropriate."


Asked by Martin for his views, City Attorney Corky Reynolds said it's basically up to the council to do what it wants to do, while also understanding that there could be a response, such as litigation. Or, there could be no response, he added.


"It's not the law; it hasn't been litigated," Reynolds said. "I can't tell you there's a set standard or if it's perfectly fine, or not. It certainly makes sense for you as a group to decide what you want to do and let the chips fall where they may. Nothing may ever happen, but something may."


"I for one would be happy if we passed this motion," the mayor said.


Based on comments Monday, the Pledge of Allegiance would replace what currently happens at the start of each council meeting: Mayor Martin asking everyone to stand for a "moment of silent prayer."


That practice occurring before each council meeting has changed now and then over the years. Way back when Don Osborne was mayor, the council was asked to stand for a moment of silent prayer. In the years and various mayors that followed, it at times became simply a "moment of silence" and then became a "moment of silent reflection," before Martin, after being elected in November 2018, changed it back to a moment of "silent prayer."


Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs said he has long thought the council and mayor should recite the Pledge before meetings.


Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook, while stressing that he's as "patriotic as anybody," expressed reservations before the vote about reciting the Pledge. "Are we going to get in trouble for this?" he wondered.


At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said that council members and the mayor should recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but if anyone in the council chambers doesn't want to, they shouldn't have to.


"If we make a big deal out of this it will be blown out of proportion," Cavalier said, in asking that the council simply vote on his motion.


Reynolds maintained a neutral stance as far as advising the council on what to do. "That's why you're elected, to do what you want to do," he said. "You're not on a slippery slope, but you're not elevated to a point where no one is going to climb."


The Crookston council's action comes on the heels of a city council in a Twin Cities suburb earlier this summer deciding to end the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of their meetings. The decision triggered a firestorm of protest in the community, and the council subsequently decided to reinstate the Pledge.


The Crookston council will join the Crookston School Board in reciting the Pledge. Currently, at the start of every board meeting, Board Chair Frank Fee asks and/or invites board members and the audience to join him in standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.