Atheist group members object to prayers at Grand Junction council meetings |

Atheist group members object to prayers at Grand Junction council meetings

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” City Council members have taken a moment to pray, reflect or stand quietly at each Monday meeting, during an invocation usually given by a local religious leader.

An atheist group wants to end that.

Thirteen members of the Western Colorado Atheists asked City Council in a letter this month to eliminate the invocation. They say the prayers violate the First Amendment and make residents who don’t hold religious beliefs feel unwelcome.

“We do feel excluded and marginalized. We wonder who else out there is feeling excluded and marginalized,” said Anne Landman, a group member who joined the letter.

City Attorney John Shaver said he and City Manager Laurie Kadrich are willing to meet with members to discuss their concerns. A meeting date has not been set.

Mayor Gregg Palmer, a self-described Christian, said he sees nothing wrong with having an invocation at the beginning of the council meeting. Councilman Jim Doody, who said he was raised in a Catholic church, said the invocation helps him prepare for the meeting.

“I, for one, am sick and tired of the vocal minority,” said Councilman Doug Thomason, who said he is a Methodist. “I’m no religious fanatic, but this country was founded on Christian principles, and we’ve gone so far away from that that it’s mind-boggling.

“If they choose not to observe the invocation, that’s their prerogative. But they’re not going to infringe upon my rights to hear that invocation.”

Councilwoman Teresa Coons said she wouldn’t object strongly to eliminating the invocation but also didn’t see it as harmful. Councilwoman Linda Romer Todd said she would prefer that an invocation not be part of the meeting but would not oppose efforts to keep one. Coons and Todd claim no religious affiliation.

Councilman Bruce Hill has indicated he supports the invocation. A phone number for Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein was unlisted.

The Grand Junction Ministerial Alliance selects who gives the invocation on a rotating basis from various faiths.

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