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The Coeur d’Alene City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to open invocations before meetings to any “nonprofit, faith-based organization within the city of Coeur d’Alene.”

The change will start with the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

There will be a lottery system, rather than registration, to determine who says the prayer.

The decision ends a long-running practice of having Christian pastors only provide the opening prayers, as scheduled by the Kootenai County Ministerial Association.

“Thank you for opening invocations to all,” resident Cecil Kelly told the council.

He added that he has had witches as friends.

“They are good people,” Kelly said.

After the meeting, Kelly said they might like to give the invocation.

Councilman Woody McEvers said he wasn’t sure what “nonprofit, faith-based” meant.

“But if it feels good, let’s go with it,” he said.

One woman warned the council against “Christian nationalism” and said she was “feeling unsafe for much of our community because of it right now.” Laura Tenneson said she supported the vocation lottery system. She requested the council establish a format wherein all religions and faiths are given an opportunity to represent Coeur d’Alene. She said although there are two or three dominant denominations in the area, there are many smaller faiths.

“I would hope to see a situation where Coeur d’Alene does everything they can to ensure that we come off as a welcoming community,” Tenneson said, adding later “not just those who are like us or go to the same church as us.”

Richard Dance with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints said they have eight congregations in city limits and 30 in the county. But he said they would only submit one for the prayer lottery to allow for diversity. “It would seem unfair if we put 30 names into the lottery,” he said.

Dance said the LDS church is guided by 13 Articles of Faith written in 1842.

Article One says they believe in God, the Eternal Father, and the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

“That should help those that wonder if we are Christian,” Dance said.

He said Article 11 states they claim the privilege of worshiping “Almighty God,” and Article 12 says they believe in being subjects “to kings, president, rulers and magistrates.”

He said the church would abide by the council’s decision.

The invocation before council meetings has been the subject of debate since earlier this year. The Kootenai County Ministerial Association, a Christian organization, had long handled the scheduling of who gave the prayer.

In a change, the city established an online sign-up system open to all faiths.

But Christian pastors soon filled all the prayer slots for the rest of the year.

Under the new system, those wishing to be in the lottery will have about 30 days to register for it.

Councilman Dan English said he liked “the evolution of the process” and compared the lottery to the casting of lots, which is mentioned often in the Old Testament.

“Basically, that’s what the computer is doing, so I think that’s good,” he said.

Councilman Dan Gookin said the Coeur d’Alene Tribe will be extended an invitation to give the opening prayer at least once.

McEvers said the lottery system seemed like a good idea. But he noted that some faiths, such as Catholic, have more than one church in the city.

“Can it get stacked?” he asked. Gookin said Mormons and Catholics are the largest denominations in the area. He said to be fair to citizens, it would to refreshing to let them give the invocation.

No Christian pastors addressed the council on the issue Tuesday to argue against the new prayer policy.

Members of the Coeur d’Alene City Council and Mayor Jim Hammond bow their heads in prayer before Tuesday’s meeting at the Library Community Room. From left, Dan English, Christie Wood, Dan Gookin, Hammond, Amy Evans, Kiki Miller and Woody McEvers.

Invocations won’t be led by Christian pastors only
By BILL BULEY Staff Writer | CDA Press

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