The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

A moment of silence for civic prayer

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Would a moment of silence be a good replacement for a spoken prayer at civic events?
Would a moment of silence be a good replacement for a spoken prayer at civic events?

It’s time that Saskatoon accepted a moment of silence in lieu of a prayer before events so that city council can move on to more important and pressing endeavors that affect our community.

On Nov. 25, Saskatoon City Council opted not to go forward with the proposed creation of a scripted prayer policy. Thank God.

This debate was prompted after Ashu Solo filed a human rights complaint after councilor Randy Donauer said a Christian prayer before a volunteer appreciation breakfast last summer.  Feeling discriminated against, Solo made a case for the elimination of prayer at civic events and has since been vocal about his complaint.

In an attempt to standardize prayer, several councilors put forth a greeting that would theoretically include all denominations. However, it is unreasonable to think a multi-faith council and community would willingly consent to a single scripted greeting — especially one that closes with the word “amen,” a word steeped in religious connotation.

There certainly isn’t a clear-cut way to have a greeting that doesn’t have religious affiliations in one way or another.

While I am by no means your friendly neighborhood activist-next-door, I can empathize with Solo.

I cannot help but get irritated when someone tells me “to bow my head and pray,” even when I do find myself in a religious setting. Almost always I think to myself, “I’m good, but you can go ahead.”

It’s not that I’m against a person praying, it’s just that I don’t want to have to be forced to follow suit. We must keep self-autonomy and the multicultural tenets of our country in mind. There is no one single prayer or greeting that, in my opinion, can please every Saskatonian. And if you have the magical solution, by all means, speak up!

By simply spending a moment in silence before breaking bread, cutting a ribbon, or whatever the event may be, the need for inclusiveness could be satisfied. If one is so inclined they can pray to whomever or whatever keeps them safe at night, silently in their own head.

This alternative to council-lead prayer was suggested by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and is currently employed by the city of Toronto. Perhaps this is a solution we should embrace.

But the question remains: is the complete separation of religion and state attainable?

Many reasons suggest no — at least not in a largely Christian community such as our fine City of Bridges.

Mayor Donald Atchison claimed such a restrictive proposal would be “a slippery slope” to go down and insinuated that it could potentially jeopardize his beloved nativity scenes.

As such, it appears that Christian values remain protected whether a prayer policy is adopted or not by those in charge in our community. I think municipal government needs to reflect the recent move toward a secular political community and away from the custom of joining hands before eating.

And to be quite honest, the time and effort of our city council is better spent elsewhere than on policy drafts regarding opening statements.

Photo: Esther Gibbons/flickr

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