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Syracuse recently adopted a policy that allows anyone who requests to do so to open the council meeting with an invocation or thought.

Outside the council chambers, Hatch said atheists simply want to put a stop to bringing religion into government. " Council members were more affected by the actions of Hatch and his colleagues than by his words.

"We allowed them to make two statements," said Syracuse City Councilman Jon Jepperson. The other more pronounced statement was not to stand during the pledge of allegiance." Utah Atheists are currently scheduled to open the Clearfield council meeting on Jan. To allow Utah cities to continue opening council meetings with prayer, many city attorneys recommended communities have invocations or devotions on a volunteer basis.

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Snyder's attempt followed close on the heels of a 1993 Utah Supreme Court decision that allowed Salt Lake City to have an opening prayer at council meetings.

But Van Wagoner said Salt Lake City abandoned the practice when faced with a request from Snyder, who wanted to offer a statement asking "our Mother in heaven" to "prevent these self-righteous politicians from misusing the name of God in conducting government meetings." The Salt Lake County Council reinstates public prayer at government meetings after a ten year hiatus.

"We can't bring druids in and have a ceremony sacrificing a chicken," Van Wagoner said.

"We don't want to make it a circus sideshow." The case began in 1994 when Snyder sued the city of Murray after its officials refused to let him give a proposed prayer considered by city leaders to be disparaging and disrespectful.

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