The Devil is among the many diverse religious players who are likely to get more chances to say invocations at City Council meetings, unless the invocation is eliminated entirely or the invocation policy is changed changed to a moment of silence instead of prayers.
Grand Junction City Council plans to re-assess the issue of hosting religious invocations at public meetings at their Monday, March 5 workshop.
Under pressure from the City’s secular community to abide by the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, in 2008 the City of Grand Junction adopted an invocation policy that opened up the invocation to anyone, instead of reserving the opportunity to say it only to representatives of a few selected religious groups. Over the last ten years, the new policy has resulted in the City making history with invocations given by atheists, Satanists and anarchists.
But the most prominent non-Christian invocation — a Satanic invocation last August, and all the hoopla that surrounded it — TV news cameras, prayer circles at City Hall and Bible-toting people in the audience — seems to have made Council interested in revising their invocation policy.
Council does not take public comment at their workshops, but nevertheless is asking the public for input on the issue. They may also have a public hearing on the policy where public comment is allowed at their Wednesday, March 7 public meeting.
Proselytizing at Council meetings remains ongoing
Grand Junction’s “Ten Commandments” tablet in front of City Hall, shown with Big Hunk candy bars in honor of former Mayor Reford Theobold, who fought to keep the tablet on City Hall’s front lawn in 2001. Theobold was arrested in 2015 for shoplifting Big Hunk candy bars from Cabela’s.
The 2008 invocation policy specifically prohibits people from using the invocation to proselytize. Despite this, religious speakers at City Council meetings have overwhelmingly led prayers in the name of “Jesus Christ.” This leads to a church-like atmosphere, with people in the audience standing and bowing their heads and clasping their hands, which shocks some secular attendees who are compelled to be at Council meetings for matters like getting a sewer permit or property variance — things one doesn’t normally think of as needing divine guidance. Despite speakers’ repeated use the invocation to promote personal religious beliefs, never once in ten years has anyone on City Council admonished a single speaker for violating the policy, so the violations continue unabated.
The diversification of the invocation mandated by the 2008 policy has roiled some City residents who would prefer only Christian prayers be said at meetings and who would prefer that Christianity be tacitly reaffirmed by City government as the local predominant religion. Other citizens, like members of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, have actively asked the City on a number of occasions to end religious invocations entirely, to end the divisiveness the prayers cause and let Council to put more of it’s meeting time into tending to City business, as they were elected to do.
Options to deal with invocations include 1) ending religious invocations at Council meetings entirely, 2) hosting a moment of silence instead and 3) doing nothing. There may be other options as well, because it appears the City has dealt in bad faith in the past in crafting their invocation policy in an attempt to preserve predominantly Christian invocations at their meetings. Council exhibited the same type of bad-faith dealing in 2001, when it decided to spend $64,000 in taxpayer money to thumb their nose at the U.S. Constitution and keep the Ten Commandments tablet on City Hall’s front lawn.
Have your say!
If you’d like to keep government out of religion and see more public meeting time used for tending to City business, please take a moment give Council your input prior to their March 5 workshop meeting on what you’d like to see happen with the invocations at Council meetings: Send an email with your opinions to CityCouncil@gjcity.org or leave a recorded voicemail message at the City Council Comment Line at 970-244-1504.