Group asks to use courthouse for prayer meeting

OKEECHOBEE — On June 11, Jeri Wilson of the Forerunner School and Ministry asked the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners for permission to use the commission meeting room in the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse for two prayer meetings in July.

Ms. Wilson said they would like to use the Historic Okeechobee County Courthouse “because of what is going on in our nation right now. We want to leave something that we’ve had our whole lifetime to the next generation.”

She said the prayer group includes people from the coast as well as Okeechobee County and Glades County.

“It’s about waking us up, and it’s about government and it’s about the next generation,” she said.

County Administrator Robbie Chartier said in the past the meeting room has only been used for government meetings, She suggested the board develop a written policy about use of the room.

County Commissioner Kelly Owens suggested the prayer group use the grounds outside the courthouse, which are traditionally used for the National Day of Prayer. She said since the event is planned in July, they might ask the school board for the use of a building, as the school board has allowed church groups to use some of their facilities.

“I have no issue with a religious meeting being held in here,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper. “The way the nation is going right now and the problems we are facing, I think that would be a great statement that we want to work with the people.”

Chairman Terry Burroughs said COVID-19 health and safety precautions do not allow a lot people to be inside the meeting room. He said the board meeting room is probably not the best location for this event due to the space needed for social distancing. He agreed they could have it outside on the grounds.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said he is in favor of allowing the prayer group to use the outside grounds. He said if they let this group use the room, it will set a precedent and other organizations will want to use the meeting room. He said they would have to pay county staff to open and close the building and to provide security.

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