SANTA CLARITA – Some bowed their heads, some murmured their own spontaneous prayers, and a few raised their arms in praise as Santa Clarita Christians gathered Thursday for the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. At lunchtime, a diverse group of worshippers – among them a Jew, a Buddhist and a pagan – gathered in front of City Hall in a counter prayer event organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council. The goal of both privately sponsored events was to pray for government leaders from the White House to the staff at City Hall. For the interfaith council, a secondary goal – and prayer – was for next year’s prayer gathering to involve all faiths. “I just want to say what a pleasure it is to be here – and I am here,” Mayor Marsha McLean told a breakfast crowd that erupted in applause. McLean said she backed the idea of a unity prayer breakfast, “but people are free to do as they wish.” So the interfaith council held its own lunchtime service at which about a dozen speakers of various faiths used a megaphone to pray – some drowned out by the sounds of a passing truck. “We believe it is important that we do this together because we are strength together,” prayed Rick Shafarman, who is Jewish. Garrett Myler cited a Hindu prayer with a line that summed up the day’s messages. “May there be peace in our city,” he said. [email protected] (661) 257-5251 More than 50 people responded to an online survey urging McLean to boycott the event, organized by the Dunamis Group Christian businessmen’s group, because it was viewed as exclusionary. Keynote speaker Ralph Drollinger has made headlines for his comments critical of Catholicism, gays and young mothers in the Legislature who spend days away from home in Sacramento. In a brief speech, McLean thanked U.S. troops for protecting the nation’s “freedom to worship as we please and believe in what we in our hearts want to believe.” Mixing humor with prayer, Drollinger, who lives in Newhall and runs a Sacramento-based ministry for state legislators, spoke of biblical references linking the importance of prayer and government. “A high priority of Christianity is to pray for leaders,” he told the crowd, citing New Testament epistles. No reference was made to a simmering debate about the interfaith council’s plea to the Dunamis group to hold a larger event representing all faiths. The Rev. George McLeary, council president and minister at the Lutheran Church of Hope, said at his urging the the two groups had talked since summer about a joint prayer session, but the discussion fizzled.