It’s the City Council, not the amen corner

Note: Thank you to John Tsitrian for submitting this post. Please note that Stan is not taking a position on this issue, either way, at this time.

Why the Rapid City Council has to start its proceedings with a prayer drawn from the Judeo-Christian beliefs in the Holy Bible has never been clear, as I don’t recall ever hearing any of the elected officials on that body invoking God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit as a motivating factor in reaching decisions that are secular in character and design.

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.

Our community also contains many individuals who have accepted the spiritual elements of the Bible but understand that within the New Testament there is an ongoing theme that two kingdoms co-exist, one a kingdom of mankind, the other the kingdom of God. As they see it, prayers have their places, government deliberations not being among them.   And then, of course, there is a sizable flock who believe that elements of worship should be an essential aspect of human affairs, including those as mundane as City Council meetings.

I guess it’s a reflection of our culture’s evolution that the act of public prayer, with its function of fellowship and commonality, has gone the other way and turned into a divisive institution.  I’ve looked around and sought out methods of resolving this multi-dimensional dilemma and found a few, some of them doozies.

One township allows prayers to God, but won’t let them include specific references to individuals or deities inside this divine umbrella.  They can’t say Jesus, Mohammed, Vishnu, whatever.  Another requires a  disclaimer from an official in attendance disavowing the prayer as not endorsed by the community’s governing bodies. There are others.  The common theme?  A tortured bow to political correctness that probably satisfies few and offends many.

I doubt that there’s a muse or a divine force that can inspire a prayer or oral contemplation of any kind that can reconcile all the differences at play here.  The resolution?  Maybe just a moment of silence would do for now.  I can’t think of any organized lobby or interest group that opposes it, and it certainly has a following among the spiritual.  It’s at the core of the Native-American vision quest, highly prized as a communal moment in every church I’ve ever attended, and passes Constitutional muster, unless there are mandates requiring separation of silence and state that I don’t know about :-).

I hope the Rapid City Council gives it a go, if only on a trial basis.  The existing squabble only stands to get more contentious and distracting.  A little bit of a silent time-out might do everybody some good.

News Flash: SD women can think on weekends

Note:  A post from contributor John Tsitrian

If you want a micro glance at the macro problems that the Republican Party is contending with these days, you need gaze no further than Pierre and a House Bill (1237) that’s currently incubating.  The bill amends a current law requiring women seeking an abortion to wait seventy-two hours between visits to her doctor, a “crisis pregnancy center” and undergoing the procedure itself.

HB 1237 would amend the law in the following way:  “No Saturday, Sunday, federal holiday, or state holiday may be included or counted in the calculation of the seventy-two hour minimum time period between the initial physician consultation and assessment and the time of the scheduled abortion procedure.”

The absurdity built into this bill is the implication that women can’t think on weekends and holidays–the reality, of course, is to add another hurdle along the way for women who seek to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.  The simple political math is that when you add the absurdity to the problem, your sum is all about the reason that the GOP has lost a substantial share of the female vote.

Last November, Barack Obama captured an astounding 67% of the unmarried female vote—and those numbers were enough to explain the popular vote margin.  “Unmarried women were the drivers of the president’s victory,” said Page Gardner, the president of  Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund.  And to what political forces did so many of those younger unmarried women respond?   Utterances during the campaign that seemed to be adopting extreme and retrograde positions birth control and abortion—which the Democrats were quick to exploit, successfully, as a Republican “war on women.”

Unhappily for the GOP, bills like South Dakota’s HB 1237 are easily lifted from news wires and disseminated by national media and used as yet another example of Republican antipathy to women.  I know that many well-educated, young, single professional women are uniformly rolling their eyes at the news of this pending legislation, and it only reinforces a built-in disgust with what they perceive to be condescending and demeaning Republican attitudes toward women.  Given that the GOP’s roots go down to the bedrock principles of self-reliance and freedom from government intrusion into our personal lives, bills like HB 1237 are a rejection of what Republicanism is all about.

This has to change or I fear that the GOP will suffer a long succession of losses in national elections, giving us the specter of quasi-socialists like Barack Obama for many years to come.  I’m John Tsitrian, I’m chairman of Common Sense Republicans PAC, and I’m determined to bring my Party back to its roots as a truly conservative organization that trusts individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies and their private lives.