Hutchinson, Minn., considers dropping religion from public meetings

In Hutchinson, Minn., the City Council holds a moment of silence if pastors aren’t available to provide an invocation for meetings.

“To be frank, I’ve always thought it was kind of a dumb thing to do,” council member Steve Cook tells the Hutchinson Leader. “I know it was suggested as something that could be done if a pastor wasn’t there. Two weeks ago when that happened again, that just got me thinking ‘I’m going to say something.’”

No pastors showed up at the last two meetings, prompting the council to pray by themselves in silence.

Cook is asking the council to reconsider whether it’s appropriate. He says he polled other governments — Litchfield, Silver Lake, Winsted, Glencoe, New Ulm, Willmar, Marshall and Fergus Falls, McLeod, Sibley and Meeker county boards, and the District 423 School Board — and found they got along fine without invocations.

Dropping the invocations and moment of silence will require bylaw and ordinance changes.

The issue surfaced last summer, but ultimately the Council decided not to remove the religious aspect of a public meeting.

In an editorial then, the Leader said it’s a bad idea to have invocations, although it embraced a moment of silence.

Continuing the practice is not acceptable. If the prayer is skipped because a pastor isn’t present, how important is it to city leaders to request God’s guidance? Has the invocation simply become a cultural practice that can be easily omitted from the agenda?

We suspect city leaders have not heard complaints from the public. Hutchinson is a “well-churched” community and those who disagree with the invocation — those who don’t want to rock the boat — might be afraid to speak out.

But for some Christians, the council’s current practice is a travesty of faith. And for some who don’t practice the Christian faith, it’s an offense.

The council will consider Cook’s proposal next week.

Cook is the council member who proposed a resolution in December declaring Hutchinson a welcoming community. It lost on a 3-to-2 vote.