Hutchinson, Minn., considers dropping religion from public meetings

In Hutchinson, Minn., the City Council holds a moment of silence if pastors aren’t available to provide an invocation for meetings.

“To be frank, I’ve always thought it was kind of a dumb thing to do,” council member Steve Cook tells the Hutchinson Leader. “I know it was suggested as something that could be done if a pastor wasn’t there. Two weeks ago when that happened again, that just got me thinking ‘I’m going to say something.’”

No pastors showed up at the last two meetings, prompting the council to pray by themselves in silence.

Cook is asking the council to reconsider whether it’s appropriate. He says he polled other governments — Litchfield, Silver Lake, Winsted, Glencoe, New Ulm, Willmar, Marshall and Fergus Falls, McLeod, Sibley and Meeker county boards, and the District 423 School Board — and found they got along fine without invocations.

Dropping the invocations and moment of silence will require bylaw and ordinance changes.

The issue surfaced last summer, but ultimately the Council decided not to remove the religious aspect of a public meeting.

In an editorial then, the Leader said it’s a bad idea to have invocations, although it embraced a moment of silence.

Continuing the practice is not acceptable. If the prayer is skipped because a pastor isn’t present, how important is it to city leaders to request God’s guidance? Has the invocation simply become a cultural practice that can be easily omitted from the agenda?

We suspect city leaders have not heard complaints from the public. Hutchinson is a “well-churched” community and those who disagree with the invocation — those who don’t want to rock the boat — might be afraid to speak out.

But for some Christians, the council’s current practice is a travesty of faith. And for some who don’t practice the Christian faith, it’s an offense.

The council will consider Cook’s proposal next week.

Cook is the council member who proposed a resolution in December declaring Hutchinson a welcoming community. It lost on a 3-to-2 vote.

  • Mike Worcester
  • RBHolb

    Throughout history, there have been many religious leaders who have express disapproval of public prayer. Jesus of Nazareth springs to mind in this context.

    • jon

      That’s just crazy talk, Jesus, right after he gave people the right to bear arms, announced that only as a theocracy can we survive, then he condemned abortions as murder, said if you see a sumerian you should beat the crap out of them (and he’d cover your legal fees) and fired his ar-15 into the sky to celebrate the end of the sermon.

      Maybe you are using some crazy version of the bible that wasn’t endorsed by the republican national committee…

  • John

    Cook was the mayor when I lived in Hutchinson. I wonder if who voted for what is public record. I’d be willing to put money on who the other person on the city council was that voted to call Hutchinson a Welcoming Community. My bet is that the other council member has the initials CC.

    I’m proud to count a number of people from there as friends who I still keep in touch with regularly.

    • Mike Worcester

      If you are not a follower of the FB page, Real Life In Hutchinson, you are missing out on an amazing exchange of thoughts and ideas on the topic. Actually, you aren’t…it’s about what one might expect. :/

      • John

        I wonder if it’s the latest in a long running smear campaign by a guy who didn’t get a small business grant. Several of the more civic minded people I know out there had their own and their family names dragged through the mud by him. It was pretty ugly for a while, but I moved away several years ago, and have lost touch with the daily squabbles.

    • Stephen Wiblemo

      The welcoming resolution was actually proposed by John Lofdahl. He and Steve Cook voted in favor of it.

  • Sean Collins

    Submitted to hopefully if the council votes this down, they will get involved. These kind of practices aren’t constitutional to begin with.

  • Angry Jonny

    In the 10 years I was a city council member in my little town of 600, we didn’t say a single prayer or make a pledge of allegiance. We just called the meeting to order and got to work.