According to the NBC affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut, there is a conspiracy in the city council to make the Rev. Barry Lynn‘s head explode. Apparently someone other than the theocrats of the Religious Right has persuaded the council to open its meetings with sectarian prayers:

In the wake of the battle over a mosque at Ground Zero, a move by the Hartford City Council is sure to have its critics.

The Council announced Tuesday that it has invited local imams to perform Islamic invocations at the beginning of the Council meetings in September.

An e-mail from the Common Council called it “an act of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

The email even referenced the ongoing issue in New York. “One of the goals of the Council is to give a voice to the many diverse peoples of the City, which is especially important given the recent anti-Islam events throughout the country.”

Council President Jo Winch called it an important move for the Council.

“I feel it is very important that, as a Council, we project a culture of inclusiveness in the City of Hartford. Too often it is our differences that divide us. In my opinion, it is our combination of differences that makes us strong,” Winch said.

On Facebook, Council Minority Leader Luis Cotto wrote: “We start every single council meeting with a prayer.  99% of the prayers are Christian based, and in three years I recall one Rabbi coming through.”

Keep in mind that Americans United, as well as the ACLU and other strict separationist organizations, have no tolerance whatsoever for prayers that conclude “in Jesus’ name.” Such prayers are referred to as “sectarian,” whereas the strict separationists (when they aren’t arguing that public bodies shouldn’t open with prayer at all) reject all prayer on official occasions that isn’t addressed “to Whom it may concern.” The Hartford city council, however, is looking for specifically “Islamic invocations,” but they are doing it for the purposes of “expressing solidarity” and “being inclusive.” Those are magic words to folks like AU and the ACLU, so it will be really interesting to see whether they will be able to resolve the conflict between their strict separationism and their solicitude for Islam.

(Hat tip: Benjamin Glaser.)

UPDATE: Stand Firm reader James Manley notes that a previous version of the story included a sentence later taken out. It throws an even more interesting light on the situation, and makes one wonder whether the first or second version of the story is accurate:

Though meetings don’t regularly begin with any form of prayer, an email from the Common Council called it “an act of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

(Via Stand Firm.)