I have spoken before about prayer in council meetings. The issue with the Wanganui District Councl is before the Human Rights Tribunal, mediation failed, so it is going for a ruling. A ruling is what they need anyway.
It will be interesting to see what happens. For instance, it would be hypocritical for parliament (via BORA) to rule prayers in council inappropriate since parliament starts with a prayer and the parliamentary oath includes the words "so help me God". Considering current interest in examining the parliamentary oath, thanks so very much Hone, a ruling against the council could have far-reaching constitutional impact.
It has stuck me, however, that the prayer at the start of the meeting serves a purpose. As irrational as it sounds, a short prayer or meditation has the effect of focusing the group, drawing their attention to business at hand and so on. So, while we would want to do without the religious part, we probably do not want to get rid of it completely.
Toastmasters clubs also have structured meetings. A common element in these meeting is the Dedication. Clearly this originated as a prayer to start things off but over the years it has become a short reading from literature or philosophy with no clear religious bias. members take turns coming up with the dedication.
Perhaps various District and City Councils around the country can take a leaf from the Toastmasters in this? It appears to satisfy all concerns apart from the rabidly fundamentalist.