Some years back, the first time I covered Bremerton, a committed atheist began attending the Bremerton City Council meetings pretty regularly. This citizen was not going because of any God issues, but as many of you know the council has a regular practice of opening its meeting with the pledge and a prayer.
Around the country the issue is coming up, according to an AP story online Wednesday in the Seattle Times.
All these years I’ve wondered when the day might come when someone would express offense at the regular request to deity. I kept it to myself, though, because we reporters like to be somewhat cautious about where we start fights. This wasn’t an argument I wanted to be blamed for initiating. No one complained.
In 2007, when Bainbridge Island’s city council voted to stop saying the pledge of allegiance, then Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman told the council, following a pledge and a prayer, that he was glad his city did both. Council members chuckled and said nothing more.
That may continue in Bremerton and even if a fight does happen it doesn’t necessarily mean the city would have to stop praying. But there is some question whether the city would be willing to spend the money to defend its practice in court. And the AP story suggests that the silence of whatever opposition there might be won’t continue forever.
“Lawyers on both sides say there is a new complaint almost weekly, though they don’t always end up in court. When they do, it seems even courts are struggling to draw the line over the acceptable ways to pray. Some lawyers and lawmakers believe it’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will weigh in to resolve the differences.”
Bremerton is the only local entity I know of that starts with prayer, but the state Legislature and Congress do it too. It’s not just some ancient tradition of American backwaters.
In the meantime I suppose Bremerton’s meetings will continue to be led by representatives from the city’s different religions and traditions. No one is objecting.