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Prayer Returns To Dade Commission Meetings

MIAMI (CBS4) - In silence, before Tuesday's Miami-Dade County Commission meeting, Rabbi Avroham Brashevitzky dropped 26 coins into a charity box; each representing an adult or children killed last in Friday's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

He then spoke of God.

"May God the Almighty bless you all, bless us all with peace, harmony and the ability to continuously do good and share love," he said from the podium.

For the first time since 2004, a prayer was used to open the commission meeting.

Two weeks ago, commissioners voted to reinstitute prayer at the beginning of their meetings after a fiery debate.

"It took 18 months to do it," said Anthony Verdugo, President of the Christian Family Coalition.

Verdugo led the charge to put prayer back in this political realm.

"I think the message is one of speech equality, tolerance and inclusiveness for everyone including people of faith," Verdugo told CBS4's Natalia Zea.

Sally Heyman was one of three commissioners who voted against bringing back prayer. She said the moment of silence held in the past was more appropriate.

"I am opposed to a structured prayer. I believe in the separation of church and state," said Heyman.

Still, she said Tuesday's prayer shows it can be done without alienating people.

"I think that was a full olive branch coming forward."

The American Civil Liberties Union said it will monitor the prayers over the next few meetings to make sure they remain non-denominational. The group is threatening to sue the county if the prayers become too specific to a certain religion. Commissioner Heyman believes this prayer was safe from litigation.

"I think all of us gave a sigh of relief," she said.

Zea learned the ACLU isn't the only group threatening to sue over the religion and politics issue.

The Christian Family Coalition is threatening to file a lawsuit against Commissioner Dennis Moss, for comments he made during the initial debate over this ordinance.

Moss had no comment.


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