Brian Mazurek / Peninsula Clarion file                                Debbie Hamilton gives an invocation March 5 at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Meeting in Soldotna.

Brian Mazurek / Peninsula Clarion file Debbie Hamilton gives an invocation March 5 at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Meeting in Soldotna.

Invocation ordinance likely to be pulled at assembly

The ordinance would end the offering of invocations before the beginning of assembly meetings.

An ordinance eliminating invocations during Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings is scheduled for a vote at Tuesday’s meeting, however, the ordinance’s sponsor is likely to withdraw the item completely.

Assembly member Willy Dunne sponsored an ordinance that would end the practice of offering of invocations before the beginning of assembly meetings. The ordinance would put that question to the residents for a vote.

“It was my intention when I first proposed the ordinance to have it repealed based on voter approval,” Dunne said. “I later found out it would only be an advisory vote.”

The assembly has the authority to amend its meeting agenda without voter approval. Dunne said he had concerns about the advisory vote, which is not binding.

The ordinance was introduced just weeks after a resident and member of the Satanic Temple, Iris Fontana, provided an invocation at the June 18 meeting, which prompted walkouts from borough officials and a protest outside the borough building.

In a June 20 memo from Dunne to the assembly, he said recent invocations have resulted in controversial and divisive actions in the community.

“Borough assembly policy states that invocations are presented to meet the spiritual needs of assembly members,” the memo reads. “However, recent invocations have failed to accomplish that.”

In the memo, Dunne says removing invocations will save the borough taxpayers’ money and reduce divisiveness in the community.

“It is expected that assembly members can find ways to have their spiritual needs met outside of public meetings,” Dunne said in the memo.

The borough’s invocation policy has sparked yearslong controversy.

In October, the borough lost a lawsuit against plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska in a fight over its invocation policy, which allowed certain groups and individuals to offer an invocation at the beginning of each meeting. The plaintiffs, Lance Hunt, an atheist, Fontana and Elise Boyer, a member of the Jewish community in Homer, all applied to give invocations after the policy was established in 2016. All three were denied because they didn’t belong to official organizations with an established presence on the peninsula. They sued and the ACLU Alaska agreed to represent them.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson ruled the invocation policy violated the Alaska Constitution’s establishment clause, which is a mandate banning government from establishing an official religion or the favoring of one belief over another. Article 1, Section 4 of the constitution provides that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion.”

In November, the assembly voted against appealing the Superior Court decision and passed an updated invocation policy allowing more people the ability to give invocations at assembly meetings.

More in News

Lydia Jacoby of the United States, sees the results after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Martin Meissner)
Seward buzzing over Jacoby’s victory

SEWARD — An Olympic buzz permeates an Alaska coastal community thousands of… Continue reading

FILE - A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a store Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Infections are climbing across the U.S. and mask mandates and other COVID-19 prevention measures are making a comeback in some places as health officials issue increasingly dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant. But in a possible sign that the warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates are creeping up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on some… Continue reading

Alaska State Troopers and local law enforcement agencies in Ketchikan arrested a woman on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in possession of more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of drugs at the Ketchikan International Airport. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Semi-truck crash marks fourth major car accident in 10 days

There was another vehicle accident on the Sterling Highway this morning, according… Continue reading

Resurrection Bay is seen from Seward, Alaska on Saturday, July 24, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Seward approves construction of animal shelter

The Seward City Council approved up to $1,930,500 for the construction of… Continue reading

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche speaks to reporters after a Senate floor session on the opening day of the second special legislative session on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the special session to address the budget. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Per diems add up for lawmakers

State lawmakers could make more than $85,000 in per diem payments and… Continue reading

Daniel Balserak and Luke Konson fish for salmon in Alaska. The pair has been traveling the country and catching every official state fish for the past 11 months. (Photo provided)
A gap year like no other

High school graduates defer college enrollment to fish in every state

Hikers look at the Harding Icefield in August 2015 in Kenai Fjords National Park, just outside of Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hiker rescued from Harding Icefield Trail

A hiker was airlifted off of the Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai… Continue reading

COVID-19 cases are rising and health officials say new variants are spurring the increase, even among the vaccinated. But health officials note the majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in unvaccinated people. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire file)
COVID-19 surge continues

‘They’re getting sicker this time around’

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Weekend car accident leaves 1 dead

Alaska State Troopers reported another car accident fatality over the weekend, marking… Continue reading

Most Read