In discussing the Rapid City City Council's divisive public prayers, I've been alarmed at how often supporters of such theocratic activity think that their majority status makes state-sanctioned Christian activity perfectly acceptable.
Former Rapid City councilman Dave Davis verges toward this unhealthy majoritarianism... but then decides to focus on fragging his nemesis Mayor Sam Kooiker:
None of us know if a lawsuit can now be avoided. Nor will we ever know if a lawsuit was preventable prior to the recent taunting of this group. What we know for sure is that we, the people of Rapid City, are left once again with many questions about this administration. Is this yet another example of our mayor being more concerned about the upcoming re-election than the financial responsibility he holds to the citizens of Rapid City? Will his lack of experience and leadership skill result in yet another lawsuit against the city? How many lawsuits and financial settlements are the citizens of Rapid City willing to stomach in the name of righteousness? [Dale Davis, "Coming to the Council Chambers Nearest You," One Man's Transparency, 2013.02.18]
Davis does offer this noble apology for his city government's bullying of citizens with different ideas:
Unfortunately it has become acceptable lately in Rapid City to publicly ridicule anyone who voices a differing opinion or asks too many questions. I know this to be true having experienced it myself first hand. I have long held the opinion that every citizen who has the fortitude to come forward and speak to the council, from the podium, should be treated with the utmost respect. Everyone deserves that respect, even if the elected officials on the dais completely and passionately disagree with them.
On behalf of the level headed citizens of Rapid City, I apologize to the young man from the School of Mines who so bravely spoke out against council prayer. Although I don’t share your beliefs, I do respect you as an intelligent human being and your opinion. You did not deserve to be chastised from the dais, by a member of the council, simply because your beliefs differ from his. Isn’t it interesting that those same people, who so quickly toss out the “freedom of speech” card, are usually the ones who try the hardest to repress any opinion that differs from their own? [Davis, 2013.02.18].
Down the street, Rapid Citian John Tsitrian appears to agree that non-Christians deserve a little more respect in the public square:
Much as tradition and ceremony have their places in public proceedings, the long-standing practice of beginning Council meetings with a prayer has turned into a point of contention among local taxpayers. With good reason, some citizens who support Rapid City, obey its laws, pay their taxes and generally behave as productive and involved members of the community believe the ritual should be ended.
That they don’t embrace the spiritual and moral imperatives of the Bible is no reflection on their characters, that they find its invocations imposed on a publicly supported gathering to be an unwarranted intrusion of the Church in the affairs of the community is no unreasonable point of view. That some feel excluded because their belief systems fall outside the parameters of the Holy Bible is a fact. That some bear malice to any organized creed is an altogether separate reality, but one that exists and should be recognized [John Tsitrian, "It's the City Council, Not the Amen Corner," A Way to Go, 2013.02.18].
Tsitrian, a Republican, has no fondness for political correctness, but he suggests the Rapid City City Council replace its overtly and increasingly defiantly sectarian prayers with a simple moment of silence. I would suggest that, rather pausing for silence, city officials simply come to their meetings ready to do the people's work. All the people's work.