There is yet another dust up about a city council saying Christian prayers before meetings. Mount Vernon Ohio City Council previously held prayers at the beginning of their meetings then a resident sent a letter of complaint. Once the other people in town heard, then they complained about ending a “tradition”. Add to that mess is the comments the city council president made in a story on a local TV station – that he pledged an oath to God so he sees no problem with having the prayers during the meetings. He’s wrong of course.
Resident Ryan Kitko sent a letter of complaint to the council. He claimed – factually – that Christian prayers at the meeting slighted those who weren’t Christian or who had no religious beliefs.
After City Council president Bruce Hawkins consulted with the city law director, the prayer was moved outside of the official meeting. You probably know what happens next – other citizens complained about ending a “tradition” and the plan is now to move the prayer back into the meeting and included “all beliefs”.
What really got me was the interview Hawkins gave to the Columbus TV station WBNS-10tv. He starts out bad and then goes down hill from there:
Reporter: Do you understand where Mr. Kitko is coming from?
Hawkins: “I understand what his beliefs are…”
He could’ve said “yes I do” but it is obvious he has no clue what issue Kitko’s complaint was addressing – government showing sectarian or religious favoritism at official functions marginalizes those who don’t share that favored faith or who have no religious beliefs.
Then he says something so ridiculous I had to watch it several times to make sure I heard him correctly.
Reporter: And Council President Bruce Hawkins understands his role as an elected official
Hawkins: “I swore to abide by the US constitution the constitution of the State of Ohio and I swore an oath to God…”
Obviously he has no idea what either Constitution is about. Oaths of office that mention God are only a tradition and not proscribed by law and saying an oath to god is part of the government is creating a religious test that atheists or those who don’t worship a god can’t pass.
Hawkins role is to help manage the city that elected him not to minister to them – that’s what ministers and priests are for.
Also the backup argument about tradition is lame. Slavery was a tradition. Not allowing women to own property was a tradition. Charging a poll tax was tradition.
We ended those traditions because it was the right thing to do and we need to stop these appeals to tradition to justify violating the 1st amendment.
*Note* The text of the report on the 10tv website uses Hawkins quote but doesn’t quote what he actually says in the video. Maybe they were trying to save Hawkins from foot-in-mouth disease. No matter they shouldn’t have used quote marks if they weren’t quoting him exactly.
Also Mount Vernon Ohio is the same place that had the proselytizing middle school teacher John Freshwater who burned a cross in a couple of students arms in 2008.