How would you use your moment of silence?

There's a small philosophical difference in how Mayor Don Gerard and former mayor Jerry Schweighart run city council meetings, but it's an important difference for those concerned about religious inclusion and the separation of church and state.

It only lasts about five to 10 seconds, but it happens every two weeks when the council convenes formal meetings. If you listen closely, you'll catch it.

Before the council gets to its business, Gerard will say, "Please join me for a moment of silent reflection, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance."

Fair enough. How did Schweighart phrase it when he was running meetings?

"Please join me for a moment of silent prayer, followed by the pledge," Schweighart would say.

For most people, neither of the two mayors' phrasings will be cause for alarm. But it's an important philosophical difference for those who keep an eye on how government officials address religion.

When I was a reporter for the student paper at the University of Illinois in 2007, I once caught council member Tom Bruno with his hands in his pockets during Schweighart's "moment of silent prayer." Whether the physical placement of his hands was purposeful, I still don't know, but I saw there was a story to be had.

At that time, Schweighart said he had received one complaint about his phrasing in what was then eight years' worth of moments of silent prayer.

Gerard has now opened four moments of silent reflection, and I don't suspect anyone has complained. I'm sure there are people who would rather pray than reflect, and I'm sure some people use their reflection time to pray. Others, I imagine, choose not to pray, and there likely are people who neither pray nor reflect.

But is the wording significant? Your thoughts?

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