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Cd'A might end invocations

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | April 29, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Prayers before Coeur d’Alene City Council meetings could be seeing their final Amen.

The city, which recently took over scheduling pastors to give brief invocations, might end the decades-long practice.

It has long been handled by Pastor Paul Van Noy of the Kootenai County Ministerial Association, a Christian organization.

“My interest is for the well-being of the community. That's all,” Van Noy said Thursday.

Mayor Jim Hammond said the city was given information by Van Noy stating it could be opening itself up to legal liabilities should it deny a person who wants to give the invocation.

Hammond said that when the city recently took on scheduling of invocation pastors, it did so to give all faiths a chance to open meetings with a prayer. But he said cities have been sued for not allowing Satanists or other such religious groups to offer the invocation.

“It’s possible we could end up having to dispense with it all together,” the mayor said Thursday.

Discussing the invocation is not on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, but could come up during council announcements.

The invocation is scheduled to be said by John Pulsipher with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is not a member of the Ministerial Association.

Councilman Dan Gookin and Van Noy met to discuss the invocation on Thursday.

Gookin said they had a good meeting and he appreciated Van Noy’s perspective.

“He made some very good arguments,” Gookin said.

They discussed eliminating the invocation and what that could mean.

“I’m not sure if that’s best for the city,” Gookin said.

He said he wants to hear from others on the invocation, keeping it or ending it.

“There are good arguments on both sides,” Gookin said. “There’s no clear-cut solution.”

He said ending invocations to open council meetings would eliminate a lot of problems.

“But is that really what the community wants?” he said.

Invocations are mentioned in City Council meeting minutes dating back to at least 1970.

Van Noy said the invocation is an invitation to the Lord "for his presence, leadership and guidance in our community. It is an invitation and request of the Lord to give wisdom and his counsel to our council members.”

Van Noy previously told The Press he is opposed to “invoking a spirit into our community and upon our councilmembers that may be an unclean spirit, a false Jesus.”

Van Noy said Thursday that he and Gookin had a positive meeting. He said he is “anxious to serve this community and as a pastor, has a shepherd's heart for the well-being of our city” and to do what is best for everyone.

“There’s a level of vulnerability that I want to project the city from,” he said.

Van Noy said the scheduling for the invocation should not have been taken from the Ministerial Association, and he believes the city is opening itself to lawsuits by taking it over.

“If they try to regulate, control or screen who will or will not do invocations, they are setting themselves up at an arm’s distance for First Amendment violations," he said.

Van Noy reiterated that his biggest concern is for the "safety of our community, spiritually or otherwise.”

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