6/5/12

Religious or political purposes

An excerpt from the minutes of the last city council meeting:

1. Library Use Policy. There has been a recent request by a political entity to use our Library for political reasons. This has raised the question of whether or not City buildings may be used for such activities. The Senior Citizens Center, within its guidelines, has specifically precluded the use of that facility for religious or political purposes. This is a complicated matter and I feel that the Library Board look at drafting a policy and then make a recommendation to the City Council as to what the guidelines for usage of the library conference room should for religious and/or political purposes. Until this policy has been formulated, it is my suggestion that we do not allow the library facilities to be used for religious or political meetings. I would like a directive from the City Council to the Library Board that they work on a policy and make a recommendation to the City Council 

MOTION THAT THE CITY COUNCIL REQUEST THAT THE LIBRARY BOARD CREATE A POLICY FOR THE USE OF THE LIBRARY CONFERENCE ROOM AND PRESENT IT TO THE CITY COUNCIL FOR ITS APPROVAL: Freidenberger 

SECOND: Schmidt 

DISCUSSION: None 

VOTE: The motion carried 5-0 (Velasquez, Johnson absent). 

 One can only wonder which political group requested to use the Library for political reasons. Rumor has it that it was our local Tea Party constituency. That can be neither confirmed nor refuted at the moment, basically because we here at Blogger Central haven't asked. You'd think the reporter would have done that, wouldn't you?

But here's the thing: City Council has a religious invocation, always "Christian" so far, as part and parcel of their meeting. The mayor calls the meeting to order; he leads the Pledge of Allegiance; and then someone does some praying. As part of a political function by our elected leaders. Yep.

The issue here is not that council is having a political meeting in a city building - that's what they are supposed to do, and that's why we have those council chambers upstairs in the city building.

The issue is that we have a religious function as part of a political function. One might reasonably question the praying thing, but so far, the only one who has openly done that is Cheryl Lindner, who resigned shortly after being elected, right after good ol' Tony Bolen stuck his foot in his mouth down past his tonsils with his prayer over abortion. That was some 'invocation', I gotta tell you.

We can only wonder what would happen if some citizen who is a Wiccan priest or an adherent of the Baha'i faith ... or God help us all, a Muslim ... or a Mormon, or a Seventh Day Adventist, or a Jehovah's Witness (we can only wonder at the reaction if a JW showed up to do a prayer - but refused to recite the pledge) ... wanted to offer up an invocation, purely in the spirit of expanded ecumenical brotherhood, of course. I guess we'd find out pretty quick if council is pushing a 'Christian' agenda, wouldn't we.

So we already have a 'religious' function in the city building, with every city council political meeting. It's just that so far, no one who might cause a vaporlock has come forward to ask to pray. Unless, of course, we missed it, but if we did, it ain't in any council minutes.

What's the big deal then, over allowing such functions over at the library? Or political functions? What if someone wants to hold a meeting about abortion issues? Is that political? Is it religious? Is it both? What if someone wants to hold a meeting to discuss utilities rates, which are set by the city's utilities board and approved by city council, both of which are political bodies. Would such a meeting be political? What if such a meeting were held specifically to express outrage over proposed rates, calling for recall of council and board members? Would such a meeting be political? Is council going to deny citizens use of a public building to hold such meetings? The school district is already using the high school for religious functions, and though the school district/board is a different political body, the high school is still a public building, funded in large part by the same people who use our library.

Where does council intend to draw the line in defining 'religious' and 'political' purposes?

BTW ... those religious functions being held up at the high school? Who's paying the costs required on that? Is it coming out of the school district budget?