By Rhea Mahbubani
6:51 PM PST, January 26, 2013
To pray or not to pray — that was the question at this week's Irvine City Council meeting.
In the end, the council voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to pray, approving a proposal to invite local religious leaders to start the bi-weekly meetings with an invocation. Council members Larry Agran and Beth Krom dissented.
Four public speakers kicked off the lengthy debate over separation of church and state by pulling from the consent calendar a proposed policy that would require sending a list of do's and don'ts known as the Rubin decision along with the invitation.
Mayor Steven Choi rekindled non-denominational invocations Jan. 8, the first meeting of 2013, nearly 12 years since the last time. That meeting and this week's both started with prayer.
Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway referred to the ceremony as an "American tradition" and called on "people to be more tolerant." He also pointed to guidelines put in place to offer the city legal protection.
Agran expressed support for invocations but said, "I just don't want to be in the business of prescribing and directing people of faith."
Although Agran described the move as "driven by lawyers and bureaucrats, not us policymakers," the proposal was approved with the understanding that Choi would work with the city attorney's office to draft a new, more welcoming invitation that would retain the essence of the Rubin decision.
The council also discussed a four-year contract with MV Transportation Inc. for the maintenance and operation services of Irvine's iShuttle program during the meeting, which lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours. .
While the motion passed unanimously, council members suggested connecting UC Irvine and the Irvine Spectrum on the weekends, as well as looking into establishing a FlyAway bus service to Los Angeles International Airport and modifying routes to more residential areas.