Saturday, December 4, 2021
Dec. 4, 2021

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Washougal council OKs prayer at meetings

Yearlong debate ends with a narrow 4-3 vote in favor of invocations

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter

Washougal City Council meetings will look a little different after the councilors settled a yearlong debate last week by voting to begin each meeting with a prayer.

The contentious decision came down to a 4-3 vote on a resolution that ultimately allowed the council to hold invocations before calling their meetings to order.

The invocations were originally intended just for prayers until the council broadened the resolution to include readings of poems, quotes or other material with or without religious implications.

The purpose of incorporating prayer into the meetings is to give the councilors a chance to call upon a higher power for guidance as they carry out city business, said Councilor Connie Jo Freeman, a firm supporter of the resolution.

“For 6,000 years, people have been calling on God,” Freeman said, addressing the other councilors. “And we here on the Washougal City Council have an opportunity to welcome God formally — because I know we all believe in God. I know we’re all professors of faith.”

Of course, not everyone was comfortable with the idea of praying at council meetings. Councilors Brent Boger, Joyce Lindsay and Paul Greenlee opposed the resolution for several reasons.

Lindsay said faith lies beyond the realm of the council, and she expressed concern that the prayers would put some in an awkward position. Boger, who noted his Christian faith, included himself in that group.

“This rule change will lead to a situation where I would appear to be joining in a prayer led by a non-Christian,” Boger said. “I would appear to be worshipping a non-Christian god. That is something I cannot do.”

Voting against the resolution prevents no one from praying on their own time, he said. Ultimately, Boger reluctantly said he’ll just have to step out of the room during the invocations.

Councilor Dave Shoemaker, one of the more vocal proponents of the resolution, said prayer belongs in council meetings. He contends the removal of prayers from any public meetings undercuts First Amendment rights.

“We’ve got a tradition of doing them in this country, and that tradition is under attack,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t believe in relegating God to someplace off the agenda.”

Columbian Small Cities Reporter