Though they may not have intended it as such, an interesting discussion led to a solution for an ordinance that wasn’t even introduced at Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting.
The ordinance in question, which was slated for introduction at Tuesday’s meeting, would have removed the practice of opening each meeting with an invocation from the assembly’s procedures. According to a memo to the assembly from Assembly President Blaine Gilman, who proposed the ordinance, he had been approached by people who expressed “serious discomfort” with an opening prayer.
Gilman went on to note that all residents should feel welcome at assembly meetings, and that if invocations were to continue, policies and procedures would need to be established to comply with legal requirements.
The vote to introduce the ordinance failed, but after some discussion, the debate turned toward guidelines for giving an invocation, which Gilman summed up as being broad-based an inclusive.
That appears to be a good guideline to follow moving forward — not just for selecting people to give an invocation, but for the content of the invocations given. An invocation isn’t intended to be a sermon, but rather a request for wisdom, guidance or inspiration from a higher power. While any mention of religion can make some people uncomfortable, we’d hope that everyone in attendance at an assembly meeting could listen to an invocation with an open mind. After all, listening respectfully to differing points of view is a crucial part of the public process.
And while the Kenai Peninsula may not be quite as religiously diverse as other parts of the country, we hope the attention drawn to the invocation practice inspires more people representing a wide and diverse range of beliefs — including nonbelievers — to sign up to offer invocations.
We’re glad the assembly had this discussion, and even more pleased to see a reasonable guideline come from it that sets an example of inclusivity and open-mindedness, something we can all follow.