20 faith leaders have offered invocations for county commissioners

Since instituting prayer at their weekly meetings, Clark County commissioners have heard invocations from 16 Christian representatives, one Baha'i chairperson, one Buddhist abbess, one Jewish rabbi and one Messianic Jewish pastor.

Commissioners have also held four moments of silence in lieu of a prayer.

Kelly Sills, the county's economic development manager, said the count is being recorded to document that the county is being as inclusive as possible in its benediction period, should the prayer be legally challenged.

“There's no legal requirement (to keep the categorized list),” Sills told commissioners when he presented the information at last week's board time. “ The reason it was set up this way when (former county counsel Bronson Potter) was here was that we anticipated that the issue of categorization, which was reflected in so many court cases, if we became a court case that would be part of our record.”

The list is further broken out into religious subcategory, separating the Christian denominations by religious practice.

That further breakout, Mielke said, shows the county is making an effort to be as diverse as possible.

“I kind of like the idea of being more technical and refined,” Mielke said. “If you come back there and say all the invocations are given by Christians, it doesn't show you had a Presbyterian, and a Lutheran and a Catholic.”

Further, Mielke said, the county is documenting its efforts to invite denominations to conduct the weekly prayer.

Commissioners introduced the prayer back in March after a suggestion by Commissioner Tom Mielke.

“It's about bringing tradition that's been held in our Congress, and our Legislature, back to Clark County,” Mielke said at the time of the vote.

Commissioner David Madore gave Mielke a second vote on the matter, saying he supported it as it welcomed diversity.

Commissioner Steve Stuart opposed the resolution, saying he felt introducing prayer would be divisive. Stuart also said he was uncomfortable praying in public and has stood silently during the prayer with his head unbowed.

The county used the Association of Religion Data Archives as a baseline for identifying different beliefs in Clark County in the lead-up to instituting the prayer.

That survey, conducted in 2010, found the majority of religious believers in the county fell within Protestant and Catholic traditions, with just over 98,000 adherents.

The largest group listed in the “other” category is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with more than 20,000 adherents.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.

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