Hutchinson, Minn., council settles prayer dispute

The Hutchinson Ecumenical Ministerial Association is out as coordinators of prayer before Hutchinson City Council meetings, ending — for now — an ongoing controversy in the city over prayer and politics.

It started after council member Steve Cook questioned the need for the prayer after surveying other governmental bodies in the region. He was concerned that non-Christians weren’t invited by the Association to provide the prayer.

Last month, the council rejected the idea of replacing the prayer with a moment of silence. It had asked the Association, which provided pastors to the Council meetings on a rotating basis, to include non-Christians. The Association, however, affirmed that it’s a Christian organization.

Last night, the Council eliminated the role of the ministerial alliance unanimously, the Hutchinson Leader reports.

The new policy does not end prayer before council meetings. It puts forth guidelines for the process of selecting and scheduling speakers to give the invocation, as well as guidelines for the speakers themselves.

Some of those guidelines include a three-minute limit for the invocation and participation is optional. And while the invocations do not need to be nonsectarian, speakers must not proselytize or promote any doctrine, faith, belief or dogma, and cannot disparage the views of others.

Violation of this policy may disqualify the speaker from giving future invocations.

The policy also states that a database of religious organizations within the city will be created, and city staff will send those organizations invitations to give the prayer. Respondents will be scheduled on a first-come, first-served or other random basis to deliver the invocations. Each speaker and organization is limited to giving the invocation twice per year.

The new policy ends a 52-year relationship between the City Council and the Christian ministerial organization.

  • Barton

    I think this was a good move. But I do believe a better move would have been to eliminate prayer before the meetings altogether, as I personally think that separation of church and state barely exists in practice anymore.

    • I was about to suggest the same thing.

    • Mike Worcester

      When this topic has come up in my circle of associates, I often ask “is it really necessary to have an invocation before a meeting?” Quite often I get an affirmative answer, which usually follows the line of reasoning that we are a Christian nation and that heritage should be included in our public meetings. That’s the mindset those who are not in favor of invocations are up against.

    • lindblomeagles

      Like you Barton, I agree, based on the separation of church and state, prayers should be eliminated from political meetings such as this. Our history however is a living, breathing hypocrisy. The framers feared Catholicism and Anglican Christian religions because in Europe, where the framers were from, these became State religions, and citizens, like themselves, were segregated (principally from monetary gain) for not embracing the State’s religion. In fact, that’s why the Pilgrims, who, oddly enough, were religious segregationists themselves, fled England to the Netherlands, who at that time, were the only European nation practicing “freedom of religion.” Scared their children would become “free uncouth Dutch citizens,” the Pilgrims headed to America to create their own community. To date, I believe John F. Kennedy is the only Catholic President America we’ve had, and NONE of our Presidents have been Jewish or openly Agnostic. When DID we become a Christian nation? While the framers worked tirelessly to deny the Catholic faith, they justified their cruel treatment of Africans and Native Americans using the CHRISTIAN BIBLE. It became, thus, the mission of the United States government and its state and local branches, to “civilize” others in the deep South and western frontier. The nation of freedom of religion thus became the nation where people of color DIDN’T HAVE A RIGHT to choose their religion.

  • chlost

    Should be interesting to see who with be the first invitee.

  • Angry Jonny

    Jesus Christ, just bang the gavel and call the meeting to order.

    • Angry Jonny

      Thank you for finding that funny. Sometimes I can’t edify my own virtues.