October 1, 2013 1:08 pm
Updated: October 1, 2013 1:41 pm

Prayer debate takes centre stage at Saskatoon’s executive committee

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SASKATOON – The debate over prayer at civic events in Saskatoon is back.

Last year, Ashu Solo filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) after a prayer was recited by a city councillor at an event hosted by the city.

Solo complained after Councillor Randy Donauer said a prayer at a volunteer appreciation dinner in April 2012.

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The issue was the centre of discussion at the city’s executive committee meeting on Monday.

Councillors are exploring two options for prayer at civic events – no observance, a moment of silence or a general message of giving thanks.

Solo doesn’t want a moment of silence.

“A moment of silence is still an attempt by the government to get people to pray and therefore it is inappropriate,” said Solo.

“We need to continue with acceptance and diversity, not tell people they’re not allowed to have different opinions,” said Donauer.

That sentiment was echoed Tuesday by Mayor Don Atchison on the Morning News.

“There will be some type of prayer, we’re not sure what that’s going to be yet, it could be a blessing, thanksgiving, an all inclusive type of prayer of all faiths,” said Atchison.

One person was visibly upset by the direction the topic took at the meeting.

“Prayer should not be mixed with public debate, funded with tax dollars in our tax funded buildings,” said Shannon Underwood.

In order to settle the human rights complaint, Solo says he is willing to accept a secular thanks as long as it is approved by him and contains no reference to “god or a higher power.”

Otherwise, he’ll continue with his complaint against the city.

The issue has been referred back to administration for further review.

Solo also has another complaint before the SHRC, this over a Christmas greeting on city buses.

He argues the posting of the message violates separation of religion and state.

Atchison said the message will continue to be displayed.

“Merry Christmas on our buses should still stay there,” Atchison said on the Morning News.

Solo also hinted more civil rights cases are coming.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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