EDITORIAL: Hallelujah! Invocation prayers answered
Coeur d’Alene City Council broke up a little spiritual monopoly.
On Tuesday night, the Council unanimously voted to employ a lottery system that welcomes members of any faith group to deliver the opening prayer at each City Council meeting.
For years, a group of evangelical churches known as the Kootenai County Ministerial Association determined who would give each prayer, known as the invocation.
It was a limited sample size. Some faiths featuring large local memberships — Catholics and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among them — were shut out.
Earlier this year, the City Council questioned the fairness of the prayer monopoly it had allowed for so long. Members considered three options: Continue the arrangement with the ministerial association; eliminate the invocation altogether; or invite voices from all faiths to participate.
Council members wisely chose Door No. 3.
To be clear, invocations are not sermons. Here’s a list of Coeur d’Alene’s invocation guidelines from City Clerk Renata McLeod:
• Invocations should last 1 to 3 minutes.
• They may contain sectarian language — in other words, the prayer can be specific to a religion, faith, person, etc.
• An invocation should not seek to proselytize (convert) anyone.
• An invocation should not disparage other faiths.
• An invocation should not threaten those with different beliefs with hell, damnation, or other punishment.
• An invocation should not be politically biased.
• The invocation will not be edited or approved by the City.
Invocations should be solemn and respectful in tone.
Depending on who gets in line for the invocation lottery, the ministerial association could still consume a hefty slice of the prayer pie. As of Friday, people representing eight churches were signed up to deliver CDA City Council invocations for the remainder of this year (www.cdaid.org/invocation). At least seven of the eight would likely be considered evangelical, and all eight are Christian.
To hear different people from varied backgrounds and beliefs gently opening City Council meetings twice each month isn’t a threat or a competition. It’s a blessing, and it’s greatly appreciated.