Saskatoon shifts to non-specific religious prayer, but fight not over for atheist who made complaint
The City of Saskatoon is fighting calls to ban religious prayer from city events, asking its solicitor to find a way to maintain the tradition in the 130-year-old city founded by temperance Christians while being as inclusive as possible of residents in the rapidly growing city.
At a meeting Monday night, city council received a report written partly in response to a so-far unresolved human rights complaint objecting to a councillor reciting a Christian prayer at a volunteer breakfast in April 2012.
The report laid out three options: forego prayer at civic events entirely, have a moment of silence instead or script general and inclusive language to use that will incorporate spirituality but not name a particular deity.
Council’s executive committee “unanimously” opted for option three, Mayor Don Atchison said Tuesday — a decision he thinks will help a tradition while better representing and serving a city with a greater influx of immigrants every year. The city solicitor was sent back to the drawing board to come up with guidelines — she’s expected back to the committee in four to six weeks.
The atheists, however, are not impressed. Resident and community activist Ashu Solo filed the human rights complaint against the mayor’s office and Ward 5 Councillor Randy Donauer, who rose at the April 2012 volunteer banquet and recited a short grace at the request of the mayor. The only acceptable choice, the electrical and computer engineer says, is to not have a prayer at all.