Miami-Dade Legislative Item
File Number: 122411
   Clerk's Official Copy   

File Number: 122411 File Type: Ordinance Status: Adopted
Version: 0 Reference: 12-102 Control: Board of County Commissioners
Requester: NONE Cost: Final Action: 12/4/2012
Agenda Date: 12/4/2012 Agenda Item Number: 7F
Sponsors: Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Prime Sponsor
  Lynda Bell, Co-Sponsor
  Esteban L. Bovo, Jr., Co-Sponsor
  Audrey M. Edmonson, Co-Sponsor
  Rebeca Sosa, Co-Sponsor
Sunset Provision: No Effective Date: Expiration Date:
Registered Lobbyist: None Listed

Legislative History

Acting Body Date Agenda Item Action Sent To Due Date Returned Pass/Fail

County Attorney 12/5/2012 Assigned Bruce Libhaber

Board of County Commissioners 12/4/2012 7F Amended Adopted as amended P
REPORT: First Assistant County Attorney Abigail Price-Williams read the foregoing proposed ordinance into the record. At the request of Commissioner Diaz, Prime Sponsor, Assistant County Attorney Bruce Libhaber read the following amendment into the record: to list “Invocation as provided in Rule 5.05(g),” on handwritten page 5, under Rule 5.05(a)(1), as the first item, followed by “roll call.” Commissioner Diaz noted the proposed amendment allowed time for anyone who was not comfortable with the invocation to leave the Chambers before the final roll call. He provided an overview of the foregoing ordinance. It was moved by Commissioner Diaz that the foregoing proposed ordinance be adopted. In an unrelated matter, Commissioner Jordan asked to be shown as voting “yes” on the first reading items. Commissioner Sosa spoke in support of the foregoing ordinance and the proposed amendment. She noted she had received concerns from residents who were in support and those who were opposed to this proposed ordinance. Commissioner Sosa asked whether Commissioner Diaz had considered having the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Mayor, a Commissioner, or a department director deliver the invocation on a rotating basis to eliminate the cost associated with this proposal. She expressed appreciation to Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Roan and to Commissioner Monestime for delivering the invocation at the Economic Development and Social Services Committee meetings. Commissioner Bovo spoke in support of the foregoing ordinance and the proposed amendment. He recalled the invocations given during his tenure as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. Commissioner Bovo commended Commissioner Diaz on this proposal. Commissioner Heyman said that she would not recognize any speakers as the public hearing was held in Committee; however, she had incorporated the public’s sentiments into her sentiments on this proposed ordinance. Commissioner Heyman noted she appreciated that efforts were made by the sponsor; however, she believed that it was discriminatory and unfair to members of the community whom the County Commission represented, to be subjected to a religious point of view with which they may disagree. She pointed out that some people were atheist or agnostic and should not be forced to participate in the hearing of a message anywhere in a country in which religion and government were supposed to be separate, including Miami-Dade County and the County Commission Chambers. Commissioner Heyman said that the County Commission should attend to government matters and act in a way that did not offend the religious views, or lack thereof, of any citizens the Commission members represented. Commissioner Heyman expressed appreciation to Commissioner Diaz for the proposed amendment; however, she noted she believed this proposed ordinance was unnecessary and exposed the County to litigation; and could possibly be unconstitutional. She noted she agreed that words that inspire and cause reflection were powerful ways to open meetings, sports games, and different types of business. Commissioner Heyman pointed out that Miami-Dade County had an abundance of inspiring leaders. She referred to handwritten page 7(g)(4) of the ordinance regarding the delivery of the invocation by an eligible individual; and the compilation and maintenance by the Clerk of the Board of the religious congregations with an established presence, and the listing of religious assemblies for inclusion. Commissioner Heyman said she believed that a message of inspiration or reflection should not be restricted, but should be open to any community member selected from a list. She noted the list should be comprised of community leaders; however, if this ordinance was not amended these leaders would be excluded, except for religious leaders. Commissioner Heyman pointed out that Miami-Dade County had a rich history of inclusion and she urged her colleagues to embrace that inclusion when setting the rules for the persons invited to open the County Commission meetings. She noted if this proposed ordinance as stated on typed page 4, (g)(1), was offered for the benefit of the Board, then she would suggest that it be offered for everyone who conducted business with the Board in the Chambers. Commissioner Heyman said she believed that a moment of silence benefits the County Commission as suggested on typed page 4, (g)(1) and all who were present on County business. She noted during her tenure as a commissioner, prayers and invocations were presented; and she was always mindful of freedom of speech and her obligations as a commissioner. Commissioner Heyman said this proposed ordinance likely would again become divisive as the Commission allowed people to speak freely and uncensored. Regarding the other governmental Chambers that she had participated in, Commissioner Heyman indicated that the invocation was always delivered before a quorum was called and was always voluntary. She said that based on religious freedom and her commitment to represent everyone, mindful of diversity, she would be voting against this proposed ordinance. Commissioner Heyman noted she was hopeful that it would be further amended. Commissioner Suarez said when he realized that this ordinance was on the agenda for committee consideration he asked the County Attorney about the legality and constitutionality of it and was assured that it was constitutional. He read a quote from John Adams regarding religion and noted he had previously read quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, regarding the importance of religion to this particular nation. Commissioner Suarez said that he had written a sequel to Democracy in America in which he stressed the importance of religion in civic life. He noted at the committee hearing he was unaware that this proposed ordinance would involve a rotation of invocation speakers or any expenditure. Commissioner Suarez said the law was complicated as it related to this issue and depended on how non-denominational the invocation was and who was invited and who was not. He suggested the possibility of having a prayer drafted by a Commission member and submitted to the County Attorney, without any expenditure. Commissioner Suarez said that he could not vote on an item that involved selecting one religion or another, one particular minister versus another and which necessitated any expenditure. Commissioner Suarez said that he was not opposed to a prayer but not in its current format. He suggested the possibility of an amendment. Commissioner Jordan said she believed in prayer and also prayed during the moments of silent meditation. She noted she respected the right of other faiths, and believed that the County Commission had to respect the entire community. Commissioner Jordan said she could not support this proposal as a cost was associated with it and it could be offensive to others. She recalled that when prayer was offered in committees, individuals were randomly selected and no cost was involved. Commissioner Jordan noted sometimes beliefs were unintentionally imposed on others without intending to offend anyone. She said that she would prefer to maintain a moment of silent meditation in order to respect other religious groups. Commissioner Monestime said that silence was a form of speech and he would presume that absence was also a form of speech. He noted he believed that if an opportunity was given to pray, the Commission should accept it, as prayer was offered silently. Commissioner Monestime said that he would defend the rights of those who did not pray to not be asked to listen to the invocation; and he pointed out that not verbalizing did not indicate that a person did not pray. He expressed appreciation to Commissioner Diaz for amending this proposed ordinance to have the invocation before the roll call. Commissioner Moss expressed concern regarding the organizations promoting this process, particularly, the group that brought this issue to the forefront. He recalled that the Christian Family Coalition (CFC) was the same group that opposed the human rights ordinance which was placed on the ballot and passed by a 56 percent vote. Commissioner Moss noted the community had grown to be more tolerant over time. He said the CFC was a spinoff from the Christian Coalition which has had a long history of racism, being anti-immigrant and homophobic. Commissioner Moss noted in 2001 black employees sued the Christian Coalition because they were being forced to enter into their office building through the back door; and were forced to eat in separate rooms during lunch. He said that the Christian Coalition settled the lawsuit with the employees. Commissioner Moss noted he would not support these continued, conservative, right-wing philosophies that were being espoused in the country today. He noted if this issue had been brought to the Commission by an interfaith group, he would have felt more comfortable in considering it. Commissioner Moss said that based upon his observation of the group’s action in the community, he could not support this item. Commissioner Zapata said that he found the invocation to be inspirational during his tenure in the Florida Legislature. He noted he understood Commissioner Moss’ concern regarding the group that was advocating this proposal; however, he believed Commissioner Diaz’ amendment was thoughtful. Commissioner Zapata said he understood that the foregoing proposed ordinance included a fiscal impact and suggested that each commissioner recommend someone to offer the invocation. In response to Commissioner Zapata’s inquiry regarding the fiscal impact, Mayor Gimenez said there was a way to avoid a fiscal impact. Commissioner Zapata said that if this proposed ordinance was adopted he would like his share to be allocated from his office budget to mitigate the fiscal impact cost. Commissioner Bovo noted he wanted to focus on the issue at hand which was to continue a tradition that was practiced throughout the country and this community. He pointed out that numerous legislatures throughout the country began their meetings with an invocation. Commissioner Bovo said he believed that the amendment offered should satisfy those people who felt offended; however, the Commission had to be mindful of the rights of others to pray. He noted everything the Commission did had a fiscal impact and offered to allocate some of his office funds to alleviate this impact. Commissioner Sosa said that the fiscal impact could be eliminated through her proposal and there would be no cost. She noted she would support the proposed ordinance but stressed that she was not supporting any institution in making this decision. Commissioner Sosa said that all parties should have the right to decide whether they wanted to participate or not in the invocation. Vice Chairwoman Edmonson said that she would have been the last person to support this proposed ordinance because of the group that was advocating it. She noted the same group that was pushing this proposal did not support her in the election because she believed in human rights and domestic partnerships, whereas the group did not. She noted she also believed in freedom of religious belief and speech. Chairwoman Edmonson expressed support for the proposed amendment; however, she said that she did not support a monetary value being placed on prayer. She noted her sponsorship of this proposal was not based on the organization, but freedom of religion and speech. Commissioner Barreiro said he supported a moment of silence or prayer before the County Commission meetings; however, he did not believe that a database of religious congregations was necessary. He noted each commissioner could decide whether he or she wanted to have a moment of silence, or a prayer, in which case the appropriate arrangements could be made through the Chair’s office for the prayer to be scheduled. Commissioner Diaz said he disagreed with the manpower cost to maintain a database of religious congregations within Miami-Dade County. He pointed out that this proposal was not about a certain organization, noting various groups approached the County Commission constantly with requests and the Commission had to be respectful to these groups. Commissioner Diaz said he believed that the proposed amendment would be sufficient as all levels of government opened their meetings with a prayer. He noted he did not agree with the proposed cost, and he would not object to utilizing the previous system in which each commissioner could recommend someone to offer a prayer, and this recommendation could be given to the Chair, thus preventing a fiscal impact. Commissioner Diaz said he believed that an invitation should be extended to community leaders, such as reverends and rabbis. He noted he would offer an amendment to provide that instead of maintaining a database of religious congregations, each commissioner would be allowed, through the Chair’s office, to select an individual to offer the invocation. Assistant County Attorney Libhaber advised that the foregoing proposed ordinance would be amended to reflect the following: ~ to list “Invocation as provided in Rule 5.05(g)” on handwritten page 5, under Rule 5.0 (a) (1) as the first item, followed by “roll call;” ~ to delete subparagraphs (a), (b), (c), and (d) on handwritten page 7, Section (g) (4); and ~ to delete the last sentence which states “Eligible individuals shall be selected in the following manner” on handwritten page 7, Section (g) (4), and replace it with “The invocation shall be voluntarily delivered by an individual selected by members of the Board on a rotating basis.” The County Commission adopted the foregoing proposed ordinance with the amendments read into the record by Assistant County Attorney Libhaber. Vice Chairwoman Edmonson announced that the Commission would consider Agenda Item 5F as a former mayor, and the Mayor of Miami Gardens were present; and the Commission would recess until 2:30 p.m.

Legislative Text


WHEREAS, the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (“the Board”) is an elected legislative and deliberative public body, serving the citizens of Miami-Dade, Florida; and
WHEREAS, the Board wishes to continue a tradition, followed by legislative bodies throughout the United States, of solemnizing its proceedings by allowing for an opening invocation before each meeting for the benefit of the Board; and
WHEREAS, the Board desires to adopt this formal, written policy to clarify and codify its invocation practices; and
WHEREAS, such invocations before deliberative public bodies have been consistently upheld as constitutional by American courts, including the United States Supreme Court; and
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court acknowledged in Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 471 (1892), that the American people have long followed a “custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer...,”; and
WHEREAS, in Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983)(hereinafter “Marsh”), the United States Supreme Court validated the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening each day of its sessions with a prayer by a chaplain; and
WHEREAS, this Board intends to adopt guidelines that are consistent with the guidance provided by the United States Supreme Court in Marsh; and
WHEREAS, the Board intends to adopt a policy that does not proselytize or advance any particular faith, or show any purposeful preference of one religious view to the exclusion of others,

Section 1. Section 2-1 of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida, is hereby amended to read as follows:1

Sec. 2-1. Rules of Procedure of County Commission.

* * *


* * *

Rule 5.05 Agenda.

(a) Order of business.

(1) There shall be an official agenda for every meeting of the Commission, which shall determine the order of business conducted at the meeting. The order of business for Tuesday meetings shall be as follows:

1. [[roll call]]
Invocation >>as provided in Rule 5.05(g)<<
>>roll call<<
pledge of allegiance
special presentations
citizen's presentations
reports of official county boards
motion to set agenda
commission auditor
office of intergovernmental affairs

2. mayoral vetoes
mayoral reports

3. consent agenda

4. ordinances for first reading

5. public hearings, which shall be scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

6(a). chairperson of the board of county commissioners

6(b) policy matters for discussion by the board

7. ordinances for second reading

8. departments

9. additional departmental items

10. authorities, boards, councils and trusts

11. county commissioners

12. county manager

13. county attorney

14. items subject to "4-day rule"

15. clerk of the board.

Items shall be considered in the order in which they are placed on the agenda unless a majority of the commissioners determines to deviate from the printed agenda or in the discretion of the chairperson, certain matters should be taken out of order to help eliminate logistical concerns or exigent circumstances which would impede the proper functioning of the commission. During a commission meeting, commissioners may identify certain items for individual consideration (i.e., the "pull list"). Agenda items not selected for individual consideration may be approved in a single vote.

The commission shall not take action upon any matter when it is first presented to the commission in a report or reports made by the County Commissioners

* * *

>>(h) Invocations before the County Commission and Committees.

(1) It is the policy of the Board to allow for an invocation, which may include a prayer or a short solemnizing message, to be offered before its meetings for the benefit of the Board.

(2) Although the invocation shall be listed in the agenda, it shall not be considered an agenda item for the meeting or part of the public business.

(3) No member or employee of the Board or any other person in attendance at the meeting shall be required to participate in any invocation that is offered.

(4) The invocation shall be voluntarily delivered by an individual selected by members of the Board on a rotating basis.

(5) No invocational speaker shall receive compensation for his or her service.

(6) Any invitation extended shall specify that the opportunity to offer a legislative invocation shall not be exploited to convert others to any particular faith, to advance any particular faith, or to disparage any other faith or belief.

(7) Neither the Board nor the Clerk of the Board shall engage in any prior inquiry, review of, or involvement in, the content of any prayer to be offered by an invocational speaker.

(8) This policy is not intended, and shall not be implemented or construed in any way, to affiliate the Board with, nor express the Board’s preference for, any faith or religious denomination. <<

Section 2. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or provision of this ordinance is held invalid, the remainder of this ordinance shall not be affected by such invalidity.
Section 3. It is the intention of the Board of County Commissioners, and it is hereby ordained that the provisions of this ordinance, including any sunset provision, shall become and be made a part of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The sections of this ordinance may be renumbered or relettered to accomplish such intention, and the word "ordinance" may be changed to "section," "article," or other appropriate word.
Section 4. This ordinance shall become effective ten (10) days after the date of enactment unless vetoed by the Mayor, and if vetoed, shall become effective only upon an override by this Board.
1 Words stricken through and/or [[double bracketed]] shall be deleted. Words underscored and/or >>double arrowed<< constitute the amendment proposed. Remaining provisions are now in effect and remain unchanged.

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