From: Ashu M. G. Solo
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2012 8:39 AM
To: Mayor's Office; Randy Donauer
Cc: Darren hill; Pat Lorje; Ann Iwanchuk; Myles Heidt; Charlie Clark; Mairin Loewen; Glen Penner; Tiffany Paulsen; Bev Dubois
Subject: Newspaper Article About Religious Bigotry at Saskatoon Volunteer Appreciation Banquet
This is on the third page of the Star Phoenix and on the Star Phoenix Web site too.
Christian prayer sparks complaint
Citizen felt excluded by blessing
BY BETTY ANN ADAM, THE STARPHOENIX
A Christian prayer by a city councillor at a City of Saskatoon volunteer appreciation dinner discriminated against non-Christians, says a volunteer who intends to complain to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Ashu Solo, a member of the city's cultural diversity and race relations committee, was among the guests at the dinner Wednesday, where Coun. Randy Donauer said a blessing over the food in which he mentioned Jesus and ended with "amen."
"It made me feel like a second-class citizen. It makes you feel excluded," said Solo, who is an atheist.
"It's ironic that I've now become a victim of religious bigotry and discrimination at this banquet that was supposed to be an appreciation banquet for the service of volunteers like me."
The inclusion of a Christian prayer at a municipal government event violates the separation of religion and government, Solo wrote in a lengthy email to Mayor Don Atchison, which he later distributed to the rest of council.
Solo also takes issue with a prayer that "clearly gives primacy to one religion over all other religions" at a municipal event paid for with Saskatoon taxpayer money.
"This is not a Christian country or a Christian city. It is a secular multicultural country and secular multicultural city with people from numerous religions as well as spiritual people, agnostics and atheists," Solo said.
Municipal officials should not use their offices to "perform religious bigotry, as this is," or "to impose their own religious beliefs on others," Solo said.
Atchison said he was caught off-guard by the complaint because many of the events he attends include a prayer before meals.
"I've never given it any thought at all," he said.
Atchison said he is sorry to hear Solo felt excluded.
He suggested in the future, the dinner could feature prayers from different religions on a rotating basis. There could even be a dinner with no prayer at all for atheists, he said.
Solo said the rotation idea will not work because there are thousands of religions.
He wants an apology from the mayor and a promise there won't be any more prayers at City of Saskatoon events. He said if he does not receive those by next Friday, he will proceed with a human rights complaint naming the City of Saskatoon, Atchison and Donauer.
"That will give us a few days to think about it and see what we need to do here," Atchison said. "I certainly couldn't give that (assurance and apology) to anyone right now."
Donauer, who is a parttime administrator at Saskatoon Christian Centre, an evangelical church, said he doesn't see anything wrong with praying to Jesus at such an event.
"If I go to function, whether it's a different religious organization or community organization, if they have a spiritual service, opening the function or something like that, I've never been offended by that, I don't have a problem with that. People are entitled to do what they want to do."
Asked if a City of Saskatoon event is different from a religious community event, Donauer responded, "I think he's got a different view on it than I do. I'm for freedom and tolerance.
"Separation of church and state is not a legislated thing. The charter of rights opens with the line under "the supremacy of God," so in the first line of the charter of rights of the Constitution it acknowledges that there is a God. So how prayer can violate that is beyond me," he said.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix