Say a prayer - Coeur d'Alene Press: Political

Say a prayer

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Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:52 pm

COEUR d’ALENE — It’s a tradition that traces back at least three mayoral administrations.

Taking place at the beginning of every City Council meeting, it lasts but a minute.

The majority of constituents the council serves seem to support it. It’s rarely, if ever, been publicly opposed.

But, depending on the outcome of a United States Supreme Court decision, it might not be legal.

It’s the invocation — the opening prayer where council members, staff members and citizens in attendance bow their heads and pray to God before the city takes up business during its bi-monthly meeting.

It’s where religion mixes with government. It could be here to stay, or it could be on its way out.

It’s a “complicated topic with many variables,” said City Attorney Mike Gridley. “Hopefully, the case before the (Supreme Court) will give some guidance.”

The case before the high court is Town of Greece, New York v. Susan Galloway. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the town of Greece, had crossed the line and violated the 1st Amendment’s ban on an “establishment of religion” because it invited a local minister to deliver an opening prayer at the council’s monthly meeting, according to reports.

The suit, filed 3,000 miles away, could affect how Coeur d’Alene opens its meetings. The Lake City is one of the only governmental bodies in Kootenai County that opens its council meetings with a prayer. Hayden, Post Falls, and Kootenai County’s Board of Commissioners don’t. Neither does the city of Rathdrum. Coeur d’Alene incorporated the tradition decades ago and it’s never been challenged — at least not publicly — officials said.

That doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent legal, however, and the outcome of the Supreme Court case has the potential to ax Coeur d’Alene’s traditional start.

Until then, officials said, they’re not in a hurry to change something about which nobody’s complained.

“I’m pretty staunch on separation of church and state,” said Councilman Mike Kennedy. “So I kind of recognize there is a bit of conflict there, but I’m OK with that.”

In fact, other officials said, praying before meetings is fitting in politically conservative North Idaho. Some expressed surprise that other cities didn’t do it, too.

“The Washington, D.C., daily sessions, the House of Representatives, start with prayer — this is not something new to the county, this is something that founded our country,” said Paul Van Noy, pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship and president of the Coeur d’Alene Ministerial Association, the group of 40 pastors who rotate the duty of saying the invocation. “These are the fibers of what made America great.”

The association is comprised of about 30 different denominations. The one rule at the invocation, Van Noy said, is the pastors are not allowed to preach — just pray to God for blessing and guidance. It’s not meant to be a pulpit for waxing political or standing on a soap box. Invocation means just that: Asking for assistance from a higher power, he said.

“This is not a sermon, this is not your church,” Van Noy said of his instruction. “It’s the same thing as a wedding. People are there for a wedding, not to hear some guy preach.”

Last Tuesday, Pastor Joe Tuttle from the Heart of the City Church led off the City Council meeting with his invocation. He asked God to help the seven-member commission in its decision making.

“God,” he said in the minute-long prayer. “I pray for this City Council right now and every council member. That you will bless them and cause their ears to hear your words, God, that you will cause their hearts to turn to you and God, in this room, every council member be blessed, have your presence to abide in their lives and, God, place you as number one. God, we place you as number one in our city.”

The Coeur d’Alene Ministerial Association hasn’t turned away a pastor who has wanted to join the group, but, Van Noy added, it “embraces a judeo-Christian world view.”

“That is the way we’ve approached the invocation,” he said, adding that the tradition stretches as far back as then-Mayor Al Hassell’s term, 1993-1997.

In the New York case before the high court, the two community members suing the town argued that all of the people asked to pray there were Christian and even when they complained in 2008, the practice continued. They contend other religions were excluded, according to news reports.

That hasn’t happened in Coeur d’Alene.

Councilman Steve Adams, who described himself in his two campaigns as a religious conservative, said he supports the opening invocation, but would oppose religions other than traditional Christian ones — such as a “Muslim thing” — if they wanted to open the meeting.

“Something like that, yeah, I would have a problem with that, you bet,” he said. “This nation was established on Christian principles.”

The Obama administration and the GOP both filed amicus briefs in the Supreme Court case supporting the right of local town boards to begin their meetings with a prayer, according to news reports. The Supreme Court, the government argued, has also decided that prayer before a government meeting doesn’t violate the Constitution so long as it doesn’t “endorse” religion. It pointed to the federal sessions opening with invocation.

But Frank Bender, president of the Inland Northwest Freethought Society, said religion shouldn’t be a part of any public meeting. Besides, with approximately 3,000 recognized religions, not everyone would ever get equal representation, he said. His group is comprised of atheists and agnostics and promotes the separation of church and state. He too cited the Founding Fathers, but said religious freedom — not promoting Christianity — was the foundation of the country.

“Separate but equal just doesn’t work,” he said. “If it’s a public government, it really shouldn’t have anything to do with religion. If you guys want to go into a private room and meet and pray beforehand, fine, but the public part of the meeting where there could be any and all beliefs, it should be equally respectful.”

Gridley said the city’s legal department has never looked at the issue locally, because it has never been asked to. But it would be illegal to exclude a religion from doing it if asked. The legal question of invocation before government business gets tricky because it involves the context of what’s being said. Basically, it can depend on how specifically religious the dialogue is.

And in Coeur d’Alene, the prayers generally ask for guidance and set the right tone at the meeting, Mayor Sandi Bloem said.

She said she supports the tradition, which has taken place at every council meeting in her 12-year run at the helm.

“I think that it is something that starts the meeting with all of us taking a deep breath, hearing the message and trying to apply it,” she said.

“It has been working,” she added. “Again, we’re not trying to be illegal.”

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • slave posted at 9:37 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    slave Posts: 463

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean not on your own understanding. And in all your ways acknowledge Him and will make straight your path. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

    Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

  • Mahiun posted at 8:43 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Mahiun Posts: 5644

    That's not the point, JITL. It's not about the "Islam" part. It's about the "non-Chrisitan" part.

    It's about the "I would have a problem with anything non-Christian" part.

    It's about the "Oh, that silly old 'separation of religion and government' thing only applies to other people's religions, not mine!" part.

    It's about the "Of course we have freedom of religion --- you're free to you any religion you want to be a part of, as long as it's Christian!" part.

    That kind of attitude, that kind of thinking, is about as UN-American as it's possible to get, and it simply boggles the mind to think that it's coming from someone holding elected public office in America.

  • Miketeague posted at 3:40 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2631

    Muslims go back to Abraham don't you? I guess you would rather have "FOX" in the hen house?

  • Miketeague posted at 3:36 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2631

    It can’t be a surprise to most of you history scholars but a large portion of the founding fathers were Deist, I know this has been pointed out many times is these threads, but people like jitl just sail right on by like that didn’t exist so the can make their own interpretation of who and what we are. I keep seeing the term “Judeo-Christian“ popping up, quick question what percentage of the founding fathers were Jews and how much of Jewish law was considered? One more question if the founding fathers were so high on religion why didn’t they pick one to lead? I’ve never seen the meeting minutes of the fathers so I don’t know if they prayed or not, I‘d be more willing to bet they poured a beer first. I can’t understand why Christians can’t get behind the separation of church and state, it protects Christians not punish them; of course we could do away with the 1st and appoint Druids to lead.

  • Humanist posted at 2:41 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    No more so than the super intellectual that you are professing to be, JITL. You are doing the exact same thing by speculating that they didn't really mean what they had written in the Constitution. So, which is, interpret the Constitution literally or loosely? And that is exactly why the super intellectuals who decide these things, the Supreme Court, will be rendering an opinion.

  • Miketeague posted at 2:33 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2631

    So again why pray?

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 2:30 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 667

    DTS, have you been in a closet or do you just watch CNN? Muslims will kill you for being a homosexual. Muslims will stone a woman to death if she speaks out of line, but yet Liberals continue to defend them while attacking Christians who do no such things. C NN must really have some hypnotic power over you people.

    Evil is the absence of good. The only thing Good is God. So what does that make you, DTS?

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 2:28 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 667

    Yeah, Humanist and you know better now, than they who made it then. That's amazing. You know more about the Constitution and what it means than the very men that created it. You must be a super intellectual.

  • dtsinidaho posted at 2:12 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    dtsinidaho Posts: 251

    No, I have no depth to which I will not defend someones right to believe in a man-created deity. I have no depth to which I will reproach EVIL and religious bigotry, such as JTL espouses above, and the so called religious leaders that lied and misquoted and displayed hatred towards the LGBT's at the city council Anti Discrimination hearings.

  • dtsinidaho posted at 1:55 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    dtsinidaho Posts: 251

    And that is why we need laws, to protect the minority. First off, what is AMERICAN language other than ripped off parts of most languages, such as Latin, French? (see Coeur d'Alene) Maybe we should just call it AWL for short.

    I know there is a log of ignorance in Coeur d'Alene, and most of it is concentrated here on the Cd'A press comment section. But, let me ask you this aruis1.

    Let's say I am an Humanist/Atheist. Do you feel because you feel morally superior to anyone that does not believe in your concept of a man made deity being real, that they should be FORCED into bowing their heads, or maybe SWEARING in using the word GOD. If you don't believe in a GOD would you then be lying?

    I am sorry Coeur d'Alene has so many pious and bigoted Christians. It gives Christianity such a black eye. I don't care if YOU believe. But when you make rules, or allow rules to continue which creates a government supported religious BIAS, then yes those rules need to be removed.

    A)NO use of GOD of any form during swear ins.

    B) Any Invocation before a governmental department or elected officials meetings should be not allowed.... However a moment of silence COULD be allowed for those that want to pray SILENTLY can, and those that don't can twittle their thumbs or, take the opportunity to send their last Text message before the meetings commence.

    End of story

  • Humanist posted at 1:19 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    If that is the case then they were guilty of violating the very Constitution that they had written.

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 1:03 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 667

    Do you people ever get tired of defending Islam, the very religion that would have people like Mahiun beheaded? Do you have a clue? Turn off CNN and Al are like hens watching the coyote's news channel.

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 1:02 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 667

    MikeTeague I don't expect you to understand, but prayer isn't for our will. God doesn't care if you want a new pony or a Porsche. He doesn't care if you want the new job or the hot wife. So if you are looking for God to get what Mike wants, He isn't interested.

    It's not about you. It's about God.

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 12:58 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 667

    Funny....the Founding Fathers and President George Washington prayed before meetings but the Progressive Neo Coms are trying to tell us that they know better than the men that created this country. With a straight face, no doubt.

    How is it that you Neo-Communists and athiests think that prayer during a meeting is unconstitutional when the framers of the Constitution prayed? Please explain.

    Let me say it again...the men who fought for and framed the Constitution PRAYED AT GOVERNMENT MEETINGS, yet you people say it is unconstitutional. Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?

  • Humanist posted at 12:32 pm on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    Quote arius1: "Getting so tired of all the minorities out there trying to trump the rights of the majority."

    Getting SO tired of the majority trying to tyrannize the minority.

  • arius1 posted at 11:34 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    arius1 Posts: 966

    Getting so tired of all the minorities out there trying to trump the rights of the majority. I'll admit the following is mostly plagiarized, I took what I wanted from different sources, edited it, and whats left is this -
    "In America live Americans. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to
    live in America , to work and eat in America , should speak English, and should
    respect American laws. If they prefer Sharia Law or some other form of law, then we advise them
    to go to those places where that's the state law. The U.S. does not need
    minorities. Minorities need the U.S., and we should not grant them special
    privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud
    they yell 'discrimination'. We will not survive as a nation otherwise.
    Our nations culture has been developed by over three centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom'

    'We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!'

    'Most Americans believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.'

    'We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.'

    'This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom,


  • earose posted at 11:28 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    earose Posts: 27

    it is inappropriate for publicly-elected officials - all of whom take an oath to uphold secular constitutions -to schedule prayer or open government proceedings with religious rituals/ceremonies/prayers.

    Asking council members, constituents, visitors, and guests at a secular government meeting to bow their heads and listen to a religious invocation is wrong-headed.

    First, it makes a definite statement that humanists, secularists, agnostics, atheists and the non-religious are not equal citizens. World-wide, about one billion people do not profess belief in any religion. (According to the 2012 Pew Research Center study, 'Nones' on the Rise, one-fifth of American adults have no religious affiliation – that’s 46 million Americans.)

    It also excludes all faiths not represented in that particular prayer. Since there are approximately 3000 religions/faiths practiced in the world, there is no way that “all religions” can be represented. When would there be time for the meeting’s actual purpose?

    Since there is no conceivable way for a government body to conduct prayers that will not inevitably exclude/divide various constituents, the sensible alternative is also the constitutional one – no proselytizing, no sectarian prayer, no religious invocations.

    In no way does this restrict religious freedom. If some council-persons wish to pray, they may pray privately before meetings or begin with a fully-inclusive moment of silence. However, it is unreasonable to impose any one group’s religious beliefs on others. Religious worship has no place in secular government chambers that exist to serve ALL segments of the community.

  • Mahiun posted at 10:59 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Mahiun Posts: 5644

    Councilman Steve Adams, who described himself in his two campaigns as a religious conservative, said he supports the opening invocation, but would oppose religions other than traditional Christian ones — such as a “Muslim thing” — if they wanted to open the meeting.

    I find this statement extremely troubling.....

  • Miketeague posted at 9:28 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2631

    When ever I ask a Christian why does god allow all the horrible things in the world like children dying of starvation, I’ve have always been told god doesn’t get involved in our daily lives, he leaves it up to us to see what we will do. So again I ask why waste the time when no one is listening or going to do anything other than give people like Van Noy a sense of power?

  • Humanist posted at 8:44 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    Humanist Posts: 3224

    Religious-based prayer has zero place in our public process since it is automatically exclusionary to some portion of our population. Period.

    Quote: "Invocation means just that: Asking for assistance from a higher power, he said."

    The definition of invocation means "the act or process of petitioning for help or support" whether the body being appealed to is supernatural or not.

    So how do I sign up to perform an invocation that appeals only to our fellow humans and leaves other peoples "god" out of it?

  • slave posted at 7:12 am on Mon, Aug 26, 2013.

    slave Posts: 463

    Forgive them Lord. For they know not what they are doing.

  • voxpop posted at 8:24 pm on Sun, Aug 25, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    I could not be MORE certain that the Almighty has better things to do than help our beloved city council connive to do the bidding of local downtown business special interests, especially those who are about to get their new private drive at taxpayer expense. A shame that a council which processes to “embrace a judeo-Christian world view" doesn't consider ethics to be part of that.

  • Miketeague posted at 7:46 pm on Sun, Aug 25, 2013.

    Miketeague Posts: 2631

    Well it sure hasn't helped yet, has it? Drop it.

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