At the first Newburgh City Council meeting of 2019, Hillary Rayford prayed aloud during the scheduled moment of silence to protest the council's recent decision to stop holding a pre-meeting prayer.
Mayor Torrance Harvey said the decision was made after he received several complaints, including at least two from other members of council.
Quoting Bible verses, Councilwoman Rayford warned the rest of the council and the audience that the city could suffer for its decision.
"When we took prayer out of schools, we didn't know that mass shootings would be [happening] in the schools," Rayford, an at-large council member, said at the January 14 meeting. "We don't want that in our city government or any public places."
Later during her comments, Rayford thanked representatives from a local church for attending the meeting as she scolded her colleagues.
"Although prayer was taken off [the agenda], because some council members don't want it, you show up in the devil's face," she said. "I applaud you guys. You didn't even know how God used you tonight."
"We have to respect the beliefs of others," began Torrance Harvey in his comments to close out the meeting.
Harvey told the council that in addition to complaints from council members and residents who come to the meetings, he had also been getting phone calls about the prayer policy, and he could not ignore those concerns.
He still left the door open for further possible changes or compromise.
"We can discuss it further because I'm open-minded about that," Mayor Harvey said, "and I think the council is open-minded about that."