Prayer opens council meeting?

Read this interesting story in the Findlay (Ohio) Courier on Wednesday 1/21/2004:

Prayer opens council meeting

Findlay City Council, operating under new rules of order, opened its council meeting on Tuesday with an invocation led by the Rev. Ben Borsay of Gateway Church.

Council agreed earlier this month, when it adopted its new procedures for the year, to give the council president authority to invite members of the clergy and community to open its sessions with prayer.

Council members had debated the issue of adding formal prayer to council meetings in 2002, but there was enough opposition among members then that the issue was dropped.

At the time, council members Robert Nichols, Marcia Barkey and John Sausser all expressed concerns about opening council meetings with prayer. Sausser and Barkey said religion is a private, not public, matter. Nichols was concerned about fairness. All three ended their terms on council on Dec. 31.

Click here to read full story

I found the story interesting because the council, which spends time debating the importance of replacing the Bolton St. bridge after it had been closed for several years, which debated the need of the Hancock Rec Center in a city that doesn’t have enough community space as it is, and which finds a serious issue in the strength of recently installed street lights, would not only vote to allow the council president the authority to hold a prayer before the meetings but also not entertain any public input on the issue. Spending tax dollars for it as well.

I understand that religion is important to most of the community and seems to be very important to council president Schuck that he would be so adamant in getting the sole authority to decide who gives the prayer, BUT Findlay City Council has no business mixing religion and government.

As former council members Marcia Barkey and John Sausser said in 2002 as quoted in the story, religion is a personal private matter. The government can’t and shouldn’t get involved in your religious beliefs and for the life of me I can’t imagine why educated elected officials of our government would want their religion involved with their governing.

It’s like if the majority of council voted to sing the University of Michigan fight song before council meetings. Most people would agree that it wouldn’t be a proper use of council’s time and would insult those members of the community who don’t support the school up north. And I’m sure there would heated public debates about it.

I find it highly insulting to the Founders of this great country, who knew enough to keep church and state separate, that council president Schuck thinks that only prayers from different denominations or a moment of silence would be permitted. What is his qualifications to decide which religious beliefs would be allowed to lead the prayer? Is that in the job description of council president?

If Mr. Schuck is adamant about having a prayer before council meetings then he and his majority are free to meet around the flag pole in Dorney Plaza and pray. They can all then move to council chambers, call the meeting to order, and do the job they were elected to do.

Originally posted on the blog “Hancock County Politics Unfiltered”