WAVERLY -- After a discussion with a local atheist activist, the new mayor of Waverly has decided to drop prayer from city council meetings altogether and will announce it at tonight's meeting.
Mayor Dean Soash made the decision to drop prayer from the council agenda after having an hour-long discussion with Eastern Iowa Atheists organizer Justin Scott.
According to both men, Soash called Scott on the phone a few days after Soash won the mayoral runoff election, and asked Scott if he would want to give the first invocation of Soash's tenure as mayor. Scott instead persuaded Soash to drop invocations entirely.
"One of my goals was to talk to Justin and see what was going on and how we could resolve the situation," Soash said. "And after a lengthy conversation, everything was good."
He said he would continue listening to input from the community, but considered the matter "resolved."
"There were some other people -- some of the council people would also like to do away with prayer at the council meeting, so it was an easy decision to make," Soash said, declining to name those council members.
Scott, who said he had grown weary of trying and failing to convince former Mayor Charles Infelt to drop or at least include other faiths in his regular prayers, said Soash's decision was "very refreshing."
"It was just a really cordial phone call," Scott said. "He said, 'What are the pros, what are the cons?' We just decided it was the best way forward for all parties. Not having prayer is the only way to ensure a totally inclusive council."
He said he commends the mayor for taking a stance on it at his first regular council meeting, knowing not everyone would support the decision.
"I think he also realizes this is not just an atheist issue, it truly is a constitutional issue," Scott said. "To make this the first formal announcement is pretty awesome."
Soash initially announced his decision on Waverly's KWAY-FM radio Monday morning.