Wagga councillors have rejected attempts to replace or modify the prayer that currently marks the beginning of fortnightly council meetings.
During debate on adopting a draft code of meeting practice on Tuesday night, an amendment to replace the prayer with a 'civic' or opening statement was defeated.
There were many more people in the public gallery than usual to hear the debate and depositions, which took almost two hours and covered both meeting procedures and the prayer issues.
Though 98 per cent of the more than 270 written submissions on the draft meeting code were in favour of keeping the prayer, each side of the argument had two members of the public speak at the council meeting.
Former Wagga deputy mayor Mary Kidson and resident Caitlin Langley urged councillors to remove the prayer.
Ms Langley said she had "no intention to offend" but it was a "principle of council to be inclusive" and referred to the Constitution of Australia that forbids federal Parliament from passing any law for "establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion".
Mrs Kidson said it was "inappropriate to involve God in what is essentially a political existence".
Diana Shield spoke in favour of prayer and said the census showed that Wagga had a high number of Christians and that residents "feel that the prayer is important".
"There are a lot of people who elected you that want the prayer," she said.
Wagga Adventist Church minister Tharren Hutchinson also addressed councillors on his support for prayer at meetings.
Only councillors Vanessa Keenan and Dan Hayes voted for removing the prayer.
Cr Hayes argued that "removing prayer from the meeting is not removing anyone's ability to pray" and that a non-denominational prayer did not cover those of a faith with multiple gods or people with no faith.
"Not at any other committee meeting, gallery opening or workshop have I seen the prayer required as part of proceedings," Cr Hayes said.
"The prayer was introduced about 20 years ago; my understanding is that we had an acting general manager who wanted to do it and councillors agreed at the time.
"We are now reviewing that decision. We are not attacking anyone."
Deputy mayor Dallas Tout's attempt to introduce an 'affirmation' in addition to the prayer was also defeated, along with another motion to remove the phrase "almighty God" from the current prayer.
Cr Paul Funnell said the alteration would have been "sacrilegious heresy" and nobody would ask other religions to change their prayers.
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