City to consider adopting civic prayer policy

Saskatoon could be the first city in the province to adopt a civic prayer policy, which it has named it the Cultural Diversity and Race Relations Policy.

City councillors to vote on what policy will look like.

Saskatoon could be the first city in the province to adopt a civic prayer policy, which it has named it the Cultural Diversity and Race Relations Policy.

City administration wrote a report suggesting that at civic events officials should either say a general, non-religious prayer, have a moment of silence or eliminate praying altogether.

This follows a 2012 human rights complaint that was filed by an employee of the City of Saskatoon against the city after a Christian prayer was said before a dinner at a city-sanctioned event.

Ward 5 City Councillor Randy Donauer was the one who said the prayer. He was asked to say a blessing before a meal and complied without hesitation, he explained. 

Donauer says he thinks a prayer policy is completely unnecessary.

"The more we ignore the wishes of the many for the wishes of the one, the more we are going to encourage similar behaviour," Donauer said. "I think it is an overreaction. It is something council did not ask for and its something our residents aren't asking for."

Al Johnson has lived in Saskatoon for 15 years. He says he is not religious, but disagrees with the idea of having a prayer policy.

"I understand where critics are coming from in that they may be atheist or of a different religion, but I would think they would have to accept that. It isn't being derogatory to them," Johnson said.

Saskatoon city councillors will discuss their options and vote on what their prayer policy should be at city hall during a public executive committee meeting on September 30 at 2 pm.

The city administration's report says a prayer policy would offer clarity and guidelines for officials to follow at civic events. The aim is to make these events as inclusive as possible.

Jebunnessa Chopla immigrated from Bangladesh three years ago. She says they should take prayer out of civic events.

"Prayer, religion practice, it is really a very personal thing. I think it should be practised inside [your] home. I don't find any reason to make it public," Chopla said.

Saskatoon will be the first city in Saskatchewan to move towards adopting such a prayer policy, if the idea is voted on and passed at the upcoming executive committee meeting.


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