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Requested comment on City Council Discussion on Invocations at Council Meetings

Thank you for soliciting our input on the invocations.

Frankly, you are inadequate to the task of the progress of religion. And the prayers which are conducted before your official meetings do nothing to advance the practice of any religion, and in fact work against the accomplishment of the objectives of organized religion. Which, to a great extent, are identical to the purposes of the civil government. And with no penalty for violating the policy, it has served rather to advance a general disregard for authority.

The religious communities of our City are so impeded by your efforts on our behalf (however well intentioned), that we would be better served by less governmental support as it has resulted only in intrusion and interference to our rightful and necessary practices.

Further, this policy seems to act against your own interests. That there must be no contradiction for a citizen between their civil duties and their free exercise of religion is a fundamental principle of our government. It is therefore a destabilizing policy, undermining the authority of your power. It is wrong to exclude some citizens from the Council Chambers ("asking them to leave"): the Council serves every citizen – whether those citizens voted for the Councilmember, or not – and it is the duty of every citizen to remain, observe, supervise, direct, and interact with their public servants, during all parts of the meeting, from beginning to end.

These invocations are unnecessary excesses of power which naturally inspire contempt and disobedience – for both the Council and the religion they would promote. Your administrations (and your City’s religious communities) will be better served by you avoiding promoting religion in any way.

It is in a moment of silence – not prayer – that we can all find agreement. It is in silence that no one disagrees with what is said. In silence there is the peace of God. If we truly love one another, and this country, we must return to such principles of unity.

As a member of the Grand Valley Interfaith Network, i have been privileged to serve my community as Vice Chair, helping to provide for the poor and work to promote the coordination and cooperation of numerous religious communities toward the better service of your City. i have been honored to serve the Sheriff's Department in the instruction of Yoga and Meditation at the County Jail, and to help the Sheriff in crime prevention efforts. i have cleaned your streets. my Ashram pays taxes (though we are not required to) and in every way we have sought to present an example of civil duty and leadership to our fellow citizens.

Know then that as such, i could never ever myself give such an invocation as this policy permits: as we would not be subjected to another's mastery, so should we not dominate another. It is precisely because it is possible for us to permit our neighbors to undertake religious practices contrary to our own without sacrificing our own morality that we have an obligation to never force another undertake our practices when doing so would cause them to violate their conscience. More, i cannot freely exercise my religious rights knowing it would be at the expense of others who could not: when only one voice is heard, there is more lost than gained: all religion is but a dialogue, between a person and their god, and between people who share different relationships with that same god. How can i support such a policy as yours by my participation knowing its deleterious results?

It is urgent that you understand not only that some City residents take offense at having to listen to speakers who use the invocation opportunity to proselytize, but understand too that this is offensive to all religion, failing every measure of good conscience.

Doubtlessly, you are inundated by comment on this important policy and i will take no more of your valuable time. As i have offered to your staff, i offer again to you: let me introduce you to the victims of your policy, let me demonstrate the extent to which you have caused harm to your community through it. Only give me the chance, and i promise you - i will disillusion you of any belief that religion and government should be mixed. Then, perhaps, you may return your attentions to the more urgent business of our City. And there are many greater problems presently confronting you than the question of whether to perpetuate a policy which causes new difficulties for your religious leaders to overcome.

aaron
Ashram of Loka Hatha Yoga
2478 Brookwillow Loop
Grand Junction, Colorado 81505
(970) 778-2835
lokahathayoga.org