Not Every Public Prayer is Anti-Atheist Bigotry

In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, an appreciation dinner was held to thank volunteers in the town. One of the city councillors, Randy Donauer, offered some blessings before the dinner. He mentioned Jesus and ended the blessing with “Amen.”

What do you do if you’re in that room?

My guess is that most people in the audience, Christian or not, didn’t think much of it. They probably went home that night, told their friends and family members about the nice dinner and, oh, by the way, check out this nifty award they gave me. The blessing wouldn’t even register in the post-party summary. That doesn’t make it right; I just doubt it was a big deal to most people. I doubt I would’ve cared all that much.

Still, if I were in that room, I would probably have asked the event organizers, privately, if that was pre-planned or not. If the councillor did it on his own, he ought to be told by event planners not to do it in the future because it makes it seem like a Christian-only event, which it wasn’t. If the organizers had planned for a Christian blessing, I would (privately) take it up with them. I would want to know why they put a Christian blessing on the agenda as opposed to a non-denominational or secular one. I would want to know if this was accidental or the result of ignorance on their part. If it turned out to be part of some anti-church/state-separation scheme, then I’d make it a public issue.

Barring that, though, I just don’t think I could work up a ton of rage over something this insignificant. It’s not a city council meeting, in which case I would be more angry. Even though it’s a city function, without knowing any further details, my suspicion would be that someone — the councillor or the organizer(s) — just didn’t know any better.

That brings us to Ashu Solo, one of the awardees at the dinner. He heard the blessing, got royally pissed off, wrote a letter to the mayor, and then sent it along to the rest of the city council:

Ashu Solo (Richard Marjan - Postmedia News)

“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.”

“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.

Dude. You weren’t a victim of religious bigotry. The blessing didn’t go, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Also, fuck you, atheists. Amen.”

You weren’t discriminated against. The blessing didn’t go, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Also, atheists, we’re no longer accepting volunteer applications from your kind. Amen.”

I’m with Solo on the idea that (arguably unintentional) exclusion occurred. I’m with him that Christian blessings were offered despite the fact that this was a government function and not everyone there was a Christian. That doesn’t necessarily call for a lawsuit or a complaint against the offenders. That calls for educating them on what they did wrong.

Hell, the mayor didn’t even realize this was an issue. And once he saw the letter, he suggested an alternative for the future:

[Mayor Don] 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.

Look! The mayor got educated! That’s good! And then he tried to respond accordingly! He ought to be commended for that, even if his suggestions aren’t ideal. (I would suggest getting rid of the pre-meal blessing altogether. Let people pray privately if they want to.)

What did Solo think of that?

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.

He’s threatening to file a human rights complaint?!

Over the top. Unnecessary. Makes him (and us) look crazy.

As for the mayor apologizing, I don’t know why he should have to unless he’s the one who called for the prayer…

If you can get an apology from Donauer, great. Even better would be a promise (from the mayor or event organizers) that this won’t happen again. That’s all that is needed. Not an accusation of bigotry and discrimination. Not a threat of a human rights violation.

Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

Not everyone understands the idea of Christian privilege. They don’t always realize that a Christian blessing may not sound welcoming for non-Christians. It’s our job to make them aware of it, calmly if possible, and aggressively so only if the action warrants it.

Solo’s reaction isn’t helping the situation here.

(Thanks to Ian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • tyler

    “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Also, fuck you, atheists. Amen.”

  • LynnFDR

    Yeah, but this is Canada and the way they do things is rather different.  Solo could win such a complaint.

  • Gavin Deichen

    Wow. He’s actually behaving in the way that the media portray Atheists as behaving. Not helpful.

  • David Bloom

    Behaviour such as this evokes a sinister equivalence with the parties of God who often blame free-thinkers of causing ‘offence’. Granted Mr. Solo has refrained from physical acts of violence  which have proved to be too tempting for religious fundamentalists in the past, although his behaviour was nonetheless irrational which undermines a core value of atheists (rationality). I agree with his principles, simply not his method.

  • Kenny Bellew

    I read this yesterday on Google News. If he had gone to someone privately, I wouldn’t have read this in the news. Granted, it may only be atheists who see this in their news feed, so it may have been preaching to the choir. Perhaps his mistake was in making it appear as a deep personal insult versus taking a chance to explain our position and seeking change.

  • Nicole Introvert

    At an organization which was work-related dinner meeting I attended a few years ago there was a Christian prayer said before dinner.   I was shocked, a little upset, but I didn’t say or do anything.  I decided since that type of dinner was voluntary to attend, I would not do so again.  It was funny because about a year later one of my co-workers attended the same organization’s dinner and came back the next day and told me about the prayer and how they thought it was totally inappropriate as well.  

    Regardless, maybe because it was work-related we didn’t want to rock the boat.  I think if faced with the same situation I would do as Hemant stated in the comments, which is privately bring it to the attention of the organizers.  Not even in an “I AM AN ATHEIST!” way.   But as a “Not everyone who works in this industry is a Christian, please keep that in mind.”  Which would not only cover me, but a couple of my co-workers who I know are Muslim.

  • gabeln

    I had a similar situation. I was being honored for an award as a finalist for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. There were eleven of us at a long table at the front with everybody looking on and the dinner started with a prayer to god wherein the MC asked everyone to bow their heads and pray. It was pretty long too. So I did what I normally do in situation; just smile and look around. But it seemed different being up on the stage and doing it.

    As an atheist, I am used to feeling excluded so no big deal, but I did feel uncomfortable for a couple of reasons. I felt a little bit uncomfortable being celebrated by an organization up in front of friends and families and that my non-participation could have been seen as ungracious or rude. I felt a little uncomfortable that I had young students and administrators in that room, and I wasn’t there looking to make a statement . More than anything though, I felt that the message was antithetical to what the organization stands for. Good teachers know that we don’t marginalize any student for color, creed, sexual orientation, just because the law says we shouldn’t – we do it because it is the right thing to do as an effective teacher for countless reasons. 

    Fortunately, there was an end of the celebration session where the members of the organization and new members of the organization discussed how things went. I couched my objection in a productive way it how I felt about the situation, focusing on that last point, and everyone agreed and thanked me for my perspective. It was an immensely positive experience with tons of handshakes and hugs. I still smile thinking about it. PS – After expressing my concerns three more of the other ten award recipients came up to me private and told me that we played for the same team. Bonus!

  • Anique Van Berne

    How difficult is it to just offer a moment of silence before the meal, in which those that feel the need to can thank their deity?
    The mayor’s suggestion of rotating prayer is indeed impossible, but it shows he is thinking about solutions and a polite suggestion of the above solution would have sufficed in my opinion.

  • Charles Crain

    I tend to agree that this guy should cool his jets a bit, but don’t you think you made a very similar argument to the one that Christians make when wanting atheists to shut up? “If you don’t want to participate in the moment of silence, then don’t.” “It was a non-denominational prayer that didn’t call out atheists.” “How were you REALLY injured by having to walk by a prayer banner?” Now yes, usually there are other circumstances for the atheist to bolster her argument — the moment of silence was at a school; the non-denominational prayer was at a city council meeting; etc.  But it’s still the same general idea — atheists should just stop being offended over little things that Christians do.

    Just something to think about before we all lampoon this guy too harshly.

  • Joe_Buddha

    I’m not put off by his letter: It can’t be said too often that Christians aren’t the only citizens in the room, and yes, you SHOULD feel angry and left out if they act like it. The threat of a law-suit IS over the top though. Dialog and compromise are far better than just throwing temper tantrums, and makes you look like the grown-up. This is especially important in the current climate when public perception is a big part of the problem.

  • Icaarus

    “This is not a Christian country or a Christian city.”

    I call BS on that, the Queen is still the head of state, and while we have freedom from religion laws, our head of state is still a head of a Church, so in reality this is a Secular/Christian country (if one could ever exist) and one of the most religious cities in this country is Saskatoon. You cannot live in Saskatoon without feeling the pressure of the Church.

     There are far too many reasons to feel uncomfortable as an atheist in Saskatchewan, if this is the battle he is picking he needs to grow a thicker skin.

  • Cass Morrison

    Canada is different. We have no separation of church and state in our constitution even though religious freedom is written into our bill of rights. This was recently up held by the CSC in a case about religious education in Quebec. 

  • Ndonnan

    Sadly the first question asked to Richard Wade after the reason rally was” were they arrogant. This guy is the public persona of athiests. Railing about bigotry,i looked it up in the thesaurus, it described Mr.Solo to a T,as an anit-religious bigot.The advice given by Hermunt was wise and a fitting response.Mr. Solo might end up with as many friends as his name suggests.

  • David Brown

    When I read the original news article I thought about time.  Regarding the responce to the prayer, if the prayer was done in public then the responce should also be done in public. 

  • Aaron Schwab

    I refuse to take someone seriously when their last name is Solo but their first name isn’t Han.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You’re right, not everyone understands the idea. But they need to be made to. 

    Personally, I don’t think this guy is out of line. 

  • Christoph Burschka

    I’m really not sure about this. I’d agree there would have been a more appropriate avenue to use, and he should have been more conciliatory when the mayor, who had been unaware of the problem, apologized and offered a compromise instead of, I don’t know, calling him an evil thing.

    On the other hand, it’s clear that a sectarian prayer at this kind of occasion is unacceptable and shouldn’t pass without response, and an endorsement of religion, just like a prayer banner, doesn’t need to state “fuck you, atheists” to be discriminatory.

  • Formercorvguy

    I lived about 10 years in Saskatoon, it is hardly a very religious city (at least not compared to the bible belt US where I now live).  
    Performing a Christian blessing at a this event was extremely rude, the guy must have known, unless he is totally oblivious, that probably 1/2 the people at the table weren’t Christians.  He was simply prothletising.  His weak defense of “oh I didn’t realize” rings very false.  His suggestion of rotating prayers just another way to slip in Christian prayers

    I applaud Solo for standing up to him, anything private would be ignored and the Mayor would be free to continue prothletising.  Sometimes being an ass is the only way to get your point across.

    I’m sure the thought planted in numerous heads by the coverage of this that there may be a non-freindly atheist in the crowd will give pause to other would be prothletisers seeking to drag religion into every corner of Canadian society 

  • Anne

    This post was incredibly illuminating – thank you! I’ve been reading this blog off and on since about 2007, and while I’ve (slowly) made the journey from atheist to theist, I still appreciate reading the commentaries, analyses, and critiques offered here. Sometimes I get discouraged reading the number of stories along the lines of ‘Christians are at it again’  (although it’s important to keep tabs on the hurtful behavior of any religious or secular group) or ‘atheists triumph over the small minded, bigoted, etc.’ – I much prefer the book reviews, thoughtful analyses, and stories as to how the atheist community are rallying *for*, not just against something.

    Here, you really demonstrate your ability to take a balanced view and present an alternative solution that would be a lot more productive than the path this man took. Even as a Christian I would feel uncomfortable if a prayer was said at a civic function, realizing how many people it excludes and remembering my own discomfort when I was atheist when such things happened. 

    I get embarrassed and annoyed at so many members of the Christian community and hate being tarred with the same brush as them – this post reminds me to keep in mind that the atheist community is diverse, and has its share of outspoken people with whom many would disagree.

    So, once again, thank you for your insight, and for living up to the name of the blog!

  • Chris McLaughlin

    Wrong wrong wrong. Hemant. Wrong. Religious folks need to keep their religion to themselves at public events. We would think it inappropriate if a person were to start every public event with a brief praise to Ronald Reagan and the blessings of Keynesian economics, or any such political statements. (And those things are real.) It is just as rude and inappropriate (probably more so) to bombard people at every opportunity with your religious beliefs. It’s a subtle yet tangible form of discrimination that accumulates against those who do not share those beliefs. When put in the larger context of discrimination and stigma associated with atheism (like the vast number of people who rate atheists less trustworthy than rapists), Solo is correct in his assessment that this was insulting and deserves our rebuke and not our exoneration.

  • Icaarus

    It’s been a while since you were here then. Look up Maurice Vellacott. Saskatoon is not small prairie town Canada religious (that would challenge your bible belt areas) but it is the general populous assumption that everyone goes to church. There is a stench of bigotry that I suspect comes from the church. And the view of typical human rights issues is 20 years out of date. Yes it could be worse, but it still is religious enough that the secular, public university advertises for the various church run student housings. It is just easier to ignore because of the numerous denominations (United, Lutheran, Catholic, etc…) 

  • Ibis3

    I haven’t read any of the other comments, but I agree so much with you on this one, Hemant, I might even go further than you. First of all, we don’t have separation of church and state in Canada–not officially in any case. We don’t have an anti-establishment clause in our constitution. Over the years, we’ve gradually moved toward a mostly-multicultural, occasionally-secular approach to religion in government-run endeavours. This incident does not warrant a human rights complaint. The mayor’s suggested response (rotating blessings) is a perfectly Canadian solution and I think it would work out just fine and would give everyone a chance to feel included (except, presumably for this guy).

  • Gunstargreen

    The thing is with some of our necessary court battles being successful, it’s inspiring overly litigious people to try and sue at the drop of a hat.

    There clear line should be whether or not your rights are actually violated.

  • Ibis3

    First, can you try to use a dictionary or at least your spellchecker? The word you want is p-r-o-s-e-l-i-t-y-s-i-n-g. The guy who was saying that he didn’t realise it was a problem and suggested rotating prayers was the mayor, not the councillor who did the prayer. The mayor’s aim was to defuse the situation by offering accommodation and promoting multicultural inclusion, not to slip in Christian prayers or to proth-whateverthefuck. I’m as gnu as an atheist can get, but you are just as much of a jerk as Solo is.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Hemant, I applaud the balanced approach and the recognition of a less confrontational response. 

  • Formercorvguy

    Oh no the spelling police got me.  My spelling sucks especially when I’m writing in a hurry sorry if it hurts your eyes, but I’m not a jerk.  I personally would probably not stand up and call the person on this, but I can respect someone who does.

    People seem to be ready to accept that Randy Donauer just made a little mistake, that he wasn’t pushing a religious agenda.  Here is his bio:

    Randy Donauer of Saskatoon is currently the Director of Helps Ministry, and a deacon at the Saskatoon Christian Centre Church. He is also owner/director of Boat Safe Saskatoon. Previously, Randy was a supervisor with the Citizenship and Immigration office in Saskatoon. Randy is also an executive member of the Saskatoon Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast Committee. For several years, Randy was a coach with the Saskatoon Minor Basketball Association. 
    Google Randy Donauer,  once you get past half a dozen pages relating to this incident it gets interesting, he knew exactly what he was doing and he was called on it .

  • Rich Wilson

    Pretty sure that ‘human rights complaint’ is the only legal action he can take.  I’m not saying he should do it, but it sounds a lot more extreme than it is.  It’s simply what it’s called in Canada.  In the US he would be suing the city for violating his first amendment rights.

  • Simon

    Separate dinner for the atheists…yes, what a great way of welcoming everyone. Clearly the mayor hasn’t thought about it. 

    As for Solo’s methods, unless we know the full story -and maybe the ‘Holy Post’ isn’t providing that- as well as the general context I don’t think we can say “he makes us look bad”. 

  • Formercorvguy

    I went to university there, yes 20+ year ago.  I go back about once a year it is sad how the religious right is gaining strength, still it has a long way to go before it looks like the US.

  • Ibis3

    I don’t presume that Donauer “made a mistake”. You are conflating Donauer and his motives* with those of Atchison.

    *However, I doubt his intent was to convert anyone–rather more likely to
    make a public display of his tribal identity and feel a sense of
    superiority both over those who don’t believe as he does and those who do but don’t make a public spectacle of it.

  • Icaarus

    The current state of the city is such that choosing this battle is kinda like prosecuting an accountant for a minor calculation mistake when everyone in the room is guilty of fraud and embezzlement. Solo needs perspective, and apparently so do you. Just because we are not as bad as the worst part of the US doesn’t mean it is not uncomfortably bad right now. 

  • Jeremy Harton

    I don’t think that the current interpretation of the “separation of
    church and state” is at all was intended by the founders of our country.
    I would contend that anti-establishment clause, as it is known, was
    only intended to keep the church and state out of trying to control each

    1st amendment to the constitution:

    “Article 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
    religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”, where “respecting”
    most likely meaning, from google here, “With reference or regard to.”

    I don’t frankly how this could ever have been rationally interpreted to
    mean that people are not allowed to pray at city events, in school, etc.

    Anyway, you’ll understand, I hope, if I feel that  your take on this
    offends me in that I think people should be allowed to say whatever
    prayers they would like to, regardless of whether they are on the city
    council or not. Otherwise, I think there is an infringement of the 1st

    If , for example, I wanted to thank my God that there were wonderful
    volunteers and that we were having a dinner to celebrate them then I
    think I’m entitled to that as free exercise of religion. If atheists
    choose to ignore such things as anyone else would ignore unpleasant
    conversations near them, that’s up to them. The distinction over whether
    it is or isn’t planned isn’t important, and the city councillor is
    entitled to say whatever he wants to personally. If he wants to stand
    their and shout while everyone else eats and  get utterly ignored and
    thought extremely rude, that would still be legal and up to him.

    It’s not the city or city council’s job or right to tell anyone how to
    exercise their religion, city councillor or not. If everyone in the room
    wants to get up and say some prayer, that’s up to them. I might
    personally feel a little weird praying out loud in a restaurant, but I
    have a right to do so.

    I don’t see at all how a blessing is inherently unwelcoming. I’m not to
    going to complain if I have to be in the same room with an atheist,
    although it’s possible a heated discussion might occur and lead into a
    heated argument.

    If anyone got’s an answer, what exactly is a secular blessing? Who or
    what exactly are you blessing? Can you thank an inanimate universe for
    providing you food?

    @Chris McLaughlin
    Do you understand the meaning of the first amendment at all, public
    places are the ones in which you have the most freedom, not the least.
    Being in public does not suspend the first amendment.

  • Jeremy Harton

     Pretty sure that’s not “proselitysing”, it’s “proselytising”.

  • Icaarus

    Do you understand that Saskatoon Saskatchewan is in CANADA and thus not covered by the 1st amendment 

  • Formercorvguy

    Hey I agree with you, we can have a nice conversation when you are not calling me a jerk. Yes I did confuse Donauer with Atchison.

    Of course he didn’t intend to convert anyone in this specific instance he was just pushing his religious privilege and Solo pushed back.

      I doubt Ashu will get anywhere with his human rights complaint but I wish him well.  He has already raised awareness to the point where there is unlikely to be any more christian prayers at City of Saskatoon events.  Donauer no longer has free rain to push his religious views from his government position, this is real progress that would not have been made in a friendly way. 

  • Formercorvguy

    I agree it is bad and getting worse.  The guy is choosing the battle that is personal to him.   We need more like Solo and we need to support people like Solo who stand up and say no.

  • Jeremy Harton

     Ah, my mistake. Thank you for the correction. Nevertheless were it the united states…

  • Barbara Schaarschmidt

    It seems that, in my opinion, most religious people offer prayer (whether it is public prayer at an event, or an “I’ll pray for you” kind of prayer)  as something that they feel is kind and inclusive.  They’re wrong, but for the most part well intentioned.  I’m not talking about organizations or leaders – but just most individuals.

    If someone is trying to be kind (even if they are totally misguided), the response of YOU’RE WRONG, YOU’RE PERSECUTING ME!  I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU STOP RIGHT NOW!!!!! is not the right response.  With prayer in US schools, people know better and that’s not what I’m talking about here. 

    It just seems that if someone is probably trying to be kind and inclusive, calmly letting the know that what they are doing is hurtful and wrong will make them think, and often not only change what they are doing, but also let other people know.  Shrieking like a harpy will not educate anyone, will not change any behavior, but will only make people defensive. 

    Public atheism is a fairly new phenomenon.  Let’s educate people and let them know where we’re coming from.  If we’re asking people (and in many cases we are) to change deeply held beliefs about who we are and what we are about – that takes care, time, and understanding.  If we just scream at them and sue them, their opinions will never change.  We can legislate people into being quiet, but never into accepting us.  Or we can take our time, educate people, understand that it takes time to get over indoctrination, and make a real difference.

  • David Brown

     Not a 100% sure but I think the Queen is the head of the church only in GB and not other Common Wealth nations.

  • Rich Wilson

    I’m not sure, but it sounds like for one you might be confusing anyone’s right to pray with a public official, in their public capacity, leading a prayer.  Kids can pray in school.  It can’t disrupt their or other students’ study, but they can pray. They can’t get down and Tebow in the hallway where it blocks other kids from getting through, but they can put their fist  to their forehead before a test, or before lunch.

     I think people should be allowed to say whatever 
    prayers they would like to, regardless of whether they are on the city 
    council or not

    Sure.  In their capacity as private citizen.  If he had said: “It’s important for me to pray now, so please bear with me a minute and join me if you wish” and then said his own personal prayer and normal volume, no microphone, sure.

    If everyone in the room wants to get up and say some prayer, that’s up to them. 

    Sure, but they’re not the MC telling the room to pray.  No, nobody was saying “Pray or get out”, but he was leading the event, and in that capacity, asking everyone to listen to him pray HIS way.

    Here’s a thought experiment- what if he had said “Allah Akbar”?

  • Rich Wilson

    They’re also inspiring other people to realize that they don’t have to accept status quo violations.

  • Sarah Venhartly

    Let me stop you with: “I don’t frankly see how this could ever have been rationally interpreted to mean that people are not allowed to pray at city events, in school, etc.”  What you are saying is that you don’t understand a word of legal reasoning and therefore, I am afraid to say that the rest of your argument is not even worth addressing. 

    The points is that the Supreme Court has in fact “rationally interpreted” the 1st Amendment to exclude official prayers by government officials, including teachers in school, ministers asked to speak before council meetings, etc, unless very specific rules are followed and even then only in certain situations.  

    Without any understanding of why the Supreme Court has consistently ruled one way on these issues, you will continue to look foolish and will not be taken serious by most of the readers of this blog.

  • Icaarus

    She is the head of the Church of England. This is independent of where physical Anglican churches happen to be. Remember Australian Catholic churches look to the Pope. 

    I do see where you are going with this though, Anglican is not the most common denomination in Saskatchewan, or in Canada. In Canada it goes Catholic, United, then Anglican. So her influence as the head of the church is questionable. But Canadian Anglican Churches still recognize her as the Ultimate human of the church. 

    Proof (thanks wiki) Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks in Brantford, Ontario, and Christ Church, Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawks, near Deseronto, Ontario are the only two Chapels Royal in Canada, the latter being elevated to that status by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

    The active leader (read not figurehead) is the primate, an archbishop.

  • SJH

    I do not understand how a Christian blessing is unwelcoming? I would not feel unwelcome is a Muslim or Hindu happened to lead a prayer. If I were an atheist I don’t think I would feel offended at someone expressing themselves even if it were a government event.  Maybe we are being a bit to selfish trying to force everyone else to withhold who they are because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

  • TerranRich

    It’s hilarious when somebody attempts to correct someone else’s spelling, and ends up misspelling the word a different way. :-D

  • Miranda

    “(Solo) wants an apology from the mayor and a promise there won’t be any more prayers at City of Saskatoon events”

    I doubt he is going to get this, unless he does, in fact, threaten some legal action.  I live in Saskatoon, home of the annual “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.”  Google it.  Atchison and his business buddies can hardly be unaware that there are denominations other than Christian living here.  They just don’t really care.  Atchison’s dumbfounded response to Solo’s complaint in this article strikes me as disingenuous.  I realize that Atch wasn’t the one who said the prayer, but I believe his municipal government encourages a christian environment in this city.  Public prayers are everywhere, here.  And they rarely end with “allah ackbar”, or anything other than “amen” with a generous sprinkle of Jesus.

    I just wanted to give you the perspective of an atheist living in Saskatoon – I’m sure not everyone agrees with me.  Solo was a bit out of line and, yeah, he does kind of cast atheists in a bad light.  But fundamentally I agree with him.  And I think a more heartfelt apology would have been forthcoming (mostly because of political expedience) if the complainant had been another religion instead of atheist. 

  • sdorst

    I assume I’ll get shot for mentioning this, but the phrase is “free rein,” not “free rain.” it’s about lack of external control (i.e., loose or “free” reins), not about water falling from the sky.

  • sdorst

    If the mayor has a prayer breakfast committee, I doubt that he was as oblivious to the problem as he claims!

  • alconnolly

     @Jeremy Harton. Just to get this straight you would find no problem with, or any reason for anyone to take offense, if a government official at a government event decided to publicly thank satan, krishna allah or the flying spaghetti monster and ask his/her blessings on the crowd? If your answer is not an unequivocal “yes there would be nothing wrong with that an any attempt to stop it is a violation of the constitution”. Then you my friend only wish to allow freedom for your religious point of view and fall under the category bigot. If on the other hand you couldn’t agree more with the right of public officials to so conduct themselves, then you are consistent, as well as out of synch with the vast majority of Americans, who would find that outrageous.

  • Formercorvguy

    I hate english

  • Tiffani Hill

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. the guy over reacted and  the prayer shouldn’t have been said. Personally, I don’t like the idea of any prayers wether they invoke jesus or not. it’s disrespectful to others who believe differently

  • Jeff P

    Putting US/Canadian differences in the law aside, the rules protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority are only for those in a position of power (teachers, government officials, etc.). They don’t apply to those not in a position of power. Anyone can pray on their own anytime they want except for when they try to leverage their position of power to force their beliefs on others. Kids can pray in school all they want. Teachers can also pray anytime they want… just not while they are teaching the class.  Likewise,  Mr. Christian council person can pray to his God 23 hours a day… just not aloud while he has the mike at a town council meeting. That would be abusing his position of power to exercise his own little bit of tyranny over a minority of people who didn’t share his beliefs.  After the meeting is over, if Mr. Christian council person wants to spend the next 12 hours straight passing out Chick tracks to all takers out on the street as a private citizen, that is his right.  It is just wrong for him to do it while he is in the role of a councilman at the meeting.  

    Some Christians think they may be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of people on the streets so they want to leverage the trappings of power (teachers, government officials, etc.) to evangelize.  All atheists and others are saying is that you will need to simply work on your message itself instead of wanting to leverage positions of power to instill your message. 

  • Karen Locke

    (tl;dr) Sorry, didn’t have time to read all the comments, so I’m not sure if I’m repeating someone else.  But if so, maybe it deserves to be repeated.

    We’ve GOT to get our political leaders out of the habit of starting every damned event with some prayer.  We’ve had relatively little luck in getting them to stop because it’s the right thing to do.  If we can get them to stop because “some damned atheist is going to sue us”, give it a few years and nobody is going to care that there’s no starting prayer.  It may well be the only way we’ll succeed.

  • T-Rex

    These people need to keep their religions to themselves, in their homes and in their tax exempt houses of superstition. Period. Praying in public and forcing everyone to listen/ join you is annoying, insulting and a giant F’ing waste of time. Solo should have just up and left in the middle of the magical incantations. Or maybe asked if he could say a prayer to the FSM after they finished so he wasn’t left out. Or maybe tell them all his religion requires him to “rub one out” before meetings so if they could all be quiet for a few minutes so he can concentrate and he’ll be right with them as soon as he’s done.  Prayer…pffft.

  • DG

    As a former agnostic, I wasn’t. Oh sure, I was bothered by
    it in and of itself, as folks often are when confronted with competing truth
    claims. But I always imagined I would rather have a place where anyone and
    everyone could express their beliefs openly, than start down the long agonizing
    path of dictating which beliefs can or cannot be allowed. Human history shows
    that reducing liberties is something akin to eating peanuts: once humanity
    starts, it just can’t stop.

  • Renshia

    Wow, who would have thought there were militants like that in my old stomping grounds.
    Yeah he can try to go to human rights on this, but I doubt he will get far.

    There is no regulation forbidding our governments from endorsing a particular religion.  But it usually is considered really bad taste. More than one politician has sealed their fate by trying it.
     As Hemant  said I doubt this would even be considered as any kind of endorsement, just an annoying ritual at the worst of it.

    The guy needs to take a pill and  relax, but just a bit. It  is not very often religion takes any kind of significant role in government here, other than remembrance day, they got that one wrapped up tight.

    The guy should be grateful a prayer was all he had to deal with. If he ever had to go to a catholic school graduation his eyes would be bleeding.

  • Cutencrunchy

    The mayors response was a great start and that was and is the point of making sure all voices are heard! Then it would have been nice to see some gracious appreciation for the inclusive open willingness to listen but I have my style and it takes a multitude of styles maybe showing no ground will be heard when my voice wouldn’t …

  • amycas

    I agree with Hemant here. Yes, the prayer was inappropriate, but many people trust don’t know any better. It’s all wrapped up in their unacknowledged Christian privilege.
    If he wants to know about religious personal insults, Solo, should have waited on the table I did last night.

    My service partner and I were taking care of a large party. When we went over to greet them I asked, “Are we celebrating anything tonight?” They all said no, and then this one guy at the table piped up with,”Yeah, I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating that I’m saved by Jesus Christ. Are you saved ma’am?” Now I live in Texas. There is no way this guy thinks that I’m A) not a Christian already or B) haven’t heard about the Christian religion. All I said, in the nicest way possible, was,”I’m sorry sir, I don’t talk about religion with my tables.” Then he told  me he would pray for me so I wouldn’t go to hell. He continued to make references to this throughout the meal. He, and his wife, made a comment as I handed them their salad plates that I felt warm and must be close to hell already. After a while, I just stopped going to the table. The funny part was when he paid for his meal (with a credit card) I put my atheist pen in the check book for him to use. I don’t know for sure if he used it, but he did put a religious tract* from his church in there for me.

    *funny side note: a few weeks ago my boyfriend was visited at our apartment by some child evangelizers. The adult accompanying them told him that they were part of a training program at their church. The kids went through a script they had memorized and asked my boyfriend a series of questions. Regardless of his answers, they just plowed through their script. He eventually told the adult to take them somewhere else and that it was wrong to have children going door-to-door. They left a religious tract form their church though, and it’s the same one the guy from my work left me (with the church’s name on it).

  • Rich Wilson

    Not ‘free reign’?

  • A Morris

    I like the tradition of having a formal procedure for commencing the communal dining part of a structured gathering. Typically in western societies, this is a supplication to the deity to bless the food. I suggest that instead of complaining about this default style of grace, the atheist community compose and publish ones of our own – perhaps good ones will be adopted.

     How about ones that give thanks for the energy from the sun that permits our food to grow, thanks to the farmers that toil to make foods available, to all the workers involved in getting the foods to the preparation site, to all the workers that prepare and serve the meals, and finally to all the workers that cleanup the mess we make and are so happy to walk away from.

  • Anna

    I thought that’s what toasts were for? There’s nothing religious about a toast, and it seems perfectly appropriate to open a formal dinner with one.

  • sdorst

    No – but I admit that I had to look it up to be sure! :-)

  • Coyotenose

     “Why are the police wasting time catching rapists when they haven’t caught all the murderers yet?”

  • sdorst

    I understand. Sorry I brought it up. I liked your points, though!

  • Coyotenose

    You don’t appear to have learned anything from what Richard Wade actually said, but merely quote-mined him.

    Claiming that being offended by discrimination and saying so is bigotry isn’t going to fool anyone here.

  • Coyotenose

     Oota goota, Atheists?

  • Coyotenose

     When someone in the U.S. claims that we’re a “Christian nation”,  they’re wrong in that we if we were, our Constitution and laws would be based on Christianity. What we  are is (largely) a “nation of Christians”.

    Saskatoon is a city of Christians, judging from your description. I’m not sure what that makes Canada though. Religious figurehead and secular laws?

  • Coyotenose

     Sigh. I’m sorry, but explaining this gets old.

    In the U.S., the First Amendment means that anyone can pray anytime, UNLESS they are a public employee on publicly paid time, or are using public resources to do so. (also unless they are interfering with others by acting disorderly, but that’s irrelevant here.) You simply do not get to make me pay so you can promote your religion. That’s it. That’s the entire thing. Go and pray all you want at schools and city council meetings, and stop pretending that you can’t in order to feel persecuted.

    Whether it’s “planned” is irrelevant. If this happened in the U.S. and was at a function paid by the city, it would be a civil rights violation, because again, YOU DO NOT GET TO MAKE ME PAY TO PROMOTE YOUR RELIGION.

    And no, if the councilman wanted to shout at this function, it would not be up to him whether or not it was okay. You don’t get to harass people with disorderly conduct.

    Comparing a prayer in a public speech at a secular event to “an unpleasant conversation near you” is disingenuous. You have to know that.

    You contend that Separation of Church and State wasn’t intended in the Constitution, but then you go on to agree with the concept as being what the First Amendment actually means. Separation of church and state (which is exactly what you agreed with) means that religion and government are not to control one another, yes. What theists are largely incapable of grasping is that without the constant work of secular groups and individuals to keep religion out of government, the church will influence the state, and then… and here’s the real issue… the state’s dictates will reflect whichever religion got the biggest foot in the door.

    If you don’t get how being constantly made to feel excluded from society is unwelcoming, you’ve never experienced it and have never tried to empathize with it.

    All food comes from an “inanimate” universe, yes. We sort of have serious proof of that.  But why do you think that atheists thank inanimate objects? We value people, emotions, and ideas. Is that hard to imagine? You seem to have a caricature of atheism in your mind that is based on equating it to religion. It is no such thing.

  • Coyotenose

     “Refrained from” is I think a poor choice of words that comes close to libel, in that it implies that he’s a violent man who wanted to hurt people and just didn’t this time.

  • wmdkitty

     Meh, ignore the troll.

  • wmdkitty

    Er, no. It’s “proselytize”. You’ve got the i and y reversed, there.

    Eeep! I meant the “i and y” — it’s corrected now!

  • Conuly

     He was closer, at least.

  • Conuly

     And it definitely has nothing to do with reigning.

  • Conuly

     Definitely not. You also “rein in” unruly children, you do not “reign” them in.

  • Rich Wilson

    I probably should have added a :`)

  • joe smith

    This is the worst part of my great country: human rights complaints and offense being taken by everything. You gotta pick your spots…

  • AxeGrrl

    First, can you try to use a dictionary or at least your spellchecker?bThe word you want is p-r-o-s-e-l-i-t-y-s-i-n-g.

    Are you being sarcastic, Ibis? :)

    (asking because the correct spelling is proselytizing)

  • compl3x

    When people do these kinds of public prayers, I find it wholly obnoxious. It’ unnecessary and condescending to the people in the room. No one needs to hear about Jesus at a function that has nothing to do with religion.

    I also reject the point that some folk aren’t aware that it may make people feel uncomfortable. Trust me, they know just how awkward it makes non-Christians feel. They simply don’t care.

    On the plus side, no one can deny atheists participate in volunteer work!

  • James Reade

    Get a grip. Since when is muttering a few words under your breath “bombarding people at every opportunity with your religious beliefs”?

    You really haven’t grasped the fact that everything isn’t certain, and that most things in the world operate on faith (you might think more naturally of probability). There’s a probabilistic chance you’ll die in a car crash and that chance is higher if you don’t wear a seat belt. Is that proven? We all accept it, but do we know? Have we tried it out? What are the numbers? Did they run an experiment with people in and out of belts and slam them into brick walls at 25, 30, 35, 40, 45mph etc.? It’s faith not fact. It’s a possibility in the future. Yet being warned about it is just fine, isn’t it?

    Christians have a belief, also based on faith (call it probability again), about something that might happen in the future – and no small thing either, pretty catastrophic, if they are to be believed. If they actually did do some bombarding then, why would that be any different to adverts to buckle up?

  • thebigJ_A

    While I don’t agree with Chris, your response is nonsensical. Probability is not the same thing as faith (and for the record, we do have accident reports and it has been shown seat belts improve survival chance, so there’s no faith there, either).

    There are two definitions to the word ‘faith’:

    1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

    2.Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    Neither have anything to do with probability (the chances a thing will happen). When we’re talking about religious faith, we’re talking about believing in something (god/gods) without relying on evidence and often in spite of evidence against. Sure, a theist will latch on to any evidence they find that they think validates their belief, but the belief itself is fundamental, and exists with or without the evidence.
    When you say, for example, “I have faith that my brother will be there for me.” You’re talking about something else entirely. 

    If you were to find someone who followed a religion based on some (faulty) mathematical calculations that told them that particular god was more probable than all the others, or than there being no god at all, that person would not be operating on (religious) faith.

  • Freak

    >> Did they run an experiment with people in and out of belts and slam them into brick walls at 25, 30, 35, 40, 45mph etc.?
    While tests with humans are rare, seat belts are tested extensively with crash test dummies.

  • Ed Reese

    I agree with you, Hemant. How about a little grace in this situation? Not everything has to be World War III, people. You should pick your battles. This kind of thing doesn’t help our cause. My in-laws are EXTREMELY religious Christians, and when I’m at their house for dinner, they all hold hands and my father-in-law says a prayer. I hold hands and just sit there. It’s not that big a deal, and making them stop their normal routine just because I am there doesn’t mean they will stop believing in God. It would just mean that I am an oversensitive prig who doesn’t respect their home. When they come to our house for dinner (we trade off every month), there is no prayer. It’s simple really: there are these boundaries, and they came together quite organically. A while back, my wife and I went out for a few beers with her father, brother and sister, and we ended up talking religion and politics all night, and it was nice and calm and interesting and respectful. That’s how you get people on your side. I’m never gonna convince those folks to stop believing in God, because they don’t want to. If they come to it, it’ll be on their own. But now we understand each other just a little better, and we didn’t have to make a big fucking deal about everything to make it happen.

  • Mark W.

     I really miss the days when most comments sections had a dislike button.  So one guy mutters a little prayer that probably went something like,”God, please bless these good people, and look after them so they can keep doing good deeds.”
    Unfortunately, rabid idiots like Solo make the rest of us seem like we’re as foaming at the mouth as the Fundamentalists.  Apparently, you’re all for this kind of BS.  It is easier just to scream back at them, but I think that logical and reasonable discussion might be more convincing. 

  • JoS

    Oh please. Religious freedom should not be used to prevent people from praying, publicly or privately. How can you be offended if you are just listening? YOU don’t  have to pray along. Tolerance, people – I find Solo to be the bigot.

  • JoS

    So you think Solo is an ass while you defend him? 

  • JoS

    So he is a Christian  guy who lives his values. I say we shoot him before the helps anyone else.

  • JoS

    superiority?? Really? 

  • Dan

    Finding this all very odd. Our Prime Minister, during his acceptance speech on his majority, thanked G_D and so on and no one batted an eyelash. It’s widely understood that these blessings and so on are inclusive to everyone and meant in goodwill. There is no harm wished to anyone. We’ve had some people in our social groups suddenly pipe up and say “I’m an Atheist” and we always go “Cool, can you pass the salsa?” since it’s so irrelevent for the most part. Canada is largely secular outside of some pockets in Alberta and so on…I mean good on the gentlemen for making his point but maybe just talking to the presenter would have worked as well?

  • JoS

    I get your point, but your analogy isn’t very well thought out. Having worked as a rape crisis volunteer, I know that many women would MUCH rather be killed than raped. 

  • JoS

    I am wondering if my perspective is different because I have done some traveling. If I go to a predominantly Muslim nation, I am not offended by their rituals, although I don’t share their beliefs. I am not offended by Christian rituals in a Christian nation either. 

  • 1ShotScott

    Guess what?

    We all have faith in SOMETHING. You either have faith that there IS a God/creator – OR – you have FAITH that there is NOT a God / creator. NOBODY can prove or disprove either. Science can answer many question, but the questions that science does NOT answer are just as confounding. Darwin, I think, correctly identified natural selection (survival of the fittest), but could not explain human love and compassion and why humans (unlike any other creature on earth) stand up for the very least among us. Otherwise, why not let the mentally & physically handicapped just die off. Why are humans different?

    Other confounding questions that science does not answer:  How does a baby spider INSTINCTIVELY KNOW how to spin a web, with no parental instruction? How does a beaver KNOW how to build a dam. How does a zygote joey KNOW the way to the mother’s pouch?  How do salmon KNOW the river where they hatched after YEARS at sea?

    Not saying these unanswered questions PROVE that God exists, but rather, I am illustrating that every one thing that we as humans discover using science leads to hundreds or thousands of other questions to which we have no clue (yet) of the answer. The human body is the most studied on this planet, and there is still more that we do not know about the human body than what we do know, otherwise we would all live forever.

    Atheism is just as much a “faith” as Creationism.

    Still do not see how it is a “Human Rights” violation for someone to publicly thank the creator he believes in for the lives and services of people who, by their actions, contradict Darwin in every way by  putting their time and energy towards making life better for less priveleged people they don’t even know. I thank the “big bang” random chaotic order of the universe that creationist and atheist compassionate public servants like this evolved from___?____. In fact, the mere existence of Human Rights is another question NOT answered by Atheism. Why HUMAN rights. Why are all other species on this planet so far behind?  Questions! Questions!

    I am personally thankful to the scientists (many of whom are atheists) for their drive to discover such amazing things that offer SOME explanation and make our lives better. I am also thankful for HUMANitarians (many of whom are creationists) for inexplicably setting humans apart from all other life on earth by caring and lifting up the weak, the sick, the hungry, and the disadvantaged – those who would surely die of “natural selection”  if humans were merely the result of random evolution.  

  • AnonCowboy

    Actually – in Canada it would be “proselytising” :)

  • Kevin Carter

     The blessing didn’t go, “Thank you, Jesus, for this food. Also, fuck you, atheists. Amen.” God damn  that made me laugh

  • Kevin Carter

    Ashu Solo just set back the atheism idea (cause? Is there an organization) back just a little by coming off as a crazed individual. BUT that being said our public servants can remember we are in a global society and not the backward buttfuck town it was 20-15 years ago

  • Guest


  • Guest


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  • wmdkitty
  • Rich Wilson

    Logical fallacy #52: ARGUMENT FROM CAPS.

  • wmdkitty

     Don’t look at me, I’m just pointing out the troll.

  • S.

    It is quite possible that this was a “final straw” sort of deal for Solo, especially if he’s had to deal with Donauer’s religious agenda and exclusion before. If his reaction is this strong, it probably wasn’t just this single issue that causes him to feel that way (rather this one just nailed the coffin shut). How many of you have had to deal with disguised bigotry and sly remarks intended to make you feel like a second class citizen and what one event finally made you think “enough is enough”?

    We all have our tipping points, and while I understand you “don’t freak out, just inform him” stance, perhaps we should actually try to look at the whole picture and not this one instance. You know, actually try to get a full view of what Solo has had to deal with from the city before condemning him for being “over the top”. Just a thought.

  • S.

    And just look at the lovely responses he gets.
    You may not agree with his reaction, but he doesn’t deserve to be crucified by BOTH ends for it (atheists and theists). Instead, we should probably try to see if there’s more than just what’s being reported (after all, we all know how well the news likes to portray atheists).

  • papa g

    One one level, I am trying to
    respectfully relate to the feelings of Ashu Solo, an atheist and
    member of a committee on cultural diversity.
    I try to understand, because I roll my eyes when political candidates
    suggest that people with faith like mine are truly scary creatures or
    when a candidate says the Bible is a kind of fairy tale. I have sat
    in meetings where speakers told filthy jokes, sometimes making a joke
    of Jesus, and while engaging in community life, I’ve occasionally
    been ridiculed by both conservative people and liberal people for not
    being enough like Jesus, which is no doubt true, or for being too
    much about Jesus, which is seldom true. But for the most part, people
    are respectful of each other’s differences. Should everyone launch a
    complaint against anyone whose stance political, religious, or social
    disagrees with one’s own? To do so, one would have to believe he is,
    for some reason, more entitled than his fellow-citizens who think and
    speak differently. A follower of Christ cannot believe this, since
    faith in Christ is built, not on some sense of superiority, but on
    faith that Christ is truly a friend and leader for those who
    surrender to him. One can imagine translating Solo’s logic into all
    of public life, and we each shape public life by how we choose to
    live. For example, if one believed, though falsely, that all
    politicians are dishonest, and a neighbor, during a political
    campaign, displays a candidate’s sign, should one report the neighbor
    for offending one’s sensitivities? Or should the creationist student,
    expected to learn the theory of evolution in high school, as if the
    theory were the only reasonable choice, launch a human rights
    complaint or ask for an apology from the publicly
    funded school system? Or should the student learn to live in a
    diverse world, to vigorously articulate his own point of view, and
    accept the fact that others may choose to disagree? Doubtless,
    someone could drag out offenses ancient and recent that Christians
    have committed, offenses used as grounds to justify gagging public
    words of faith. Finding offense is possible, because, of the billions
    of people who have called themselves Christian, some have failed
    spectacularly. Even Jesus’ first group of twelve included a denier
    and a betrayer. Meanwhile, however, back at the gulag, atheists have
    imprisoned, tortured and executed people who dared to believe in the
    unseen, no matter what it cost them. One would hope Mr. Solo could
    embrace diversity rather than faking it and become tolerant of people
    who cherish beliefs different from his. Tolerating the practice of
    both public and private institutions that invite people of faith to
    say “thanks” before an event or meal and respecting the personal
    faith expression of the one praying, whatever that faith is, is what
    the group-ups do.


  • Guest
  • Guest

    Everyone should read what Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell has to say about this matter:

  • Guest2

    Everyone should read what Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell has to say about this matter:

  • Guest3

    Everyone should read Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell’s full interview with Ashu Solo:

  • Guest5

    Everyone should read Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell’s full interview with Ashu Solo:

    I’ve posted this link before, but Hemant Mehta kept deleting it because he doesn’t want anyone to see Ashu Solo’s response to his critics such as Hemant Mehta.

  • Guest8

    Everyone should read what Ian “Crommunist” Cromwell has to say about Ashu Solo’s case:

    I’ve posted this link before, but Hemant Mehta kept deleting it because he doesn’t want anyone to see Ian Cromwell’s response to Hemant Mehta.

  • Hemant Mehta

    I don’t delete comments, but I’m guessing the spam filter is catching up with you since you’ve posted the same thing about 11 times on this same thread.

  • Guest10

    You son of a bitch, you deleted many of my comments.  You’re a fuckin’ piece of shit.  I’d laugh if you committed suicide.

  • Rich Wilson

    The link should be available in this comment  If Disqus removes it, I’ll put a comment in that thread giving google instructions to find the link.

    I’m doing this because I agree it’s useful background on the case, not because I think anyone is a fuckin’ piece of shit, or that calling them such is getting us anywhere.

  • Guest100

    Zengaze made the following insightful comment about opponents of Solo at

    “I hate the Uncle Tom routine.Well sir da masters have been good to me, and they are all good people, why you want to upset them by telling them they shouldn’t own slaves, they’ll figure it out in their own good time.He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.—- MLKIf it was left to uncle Tom his grand children would still be in chains. Funny how uncle toms berate those prepared to take positive action to ensure justice for all, and after the justice is achieved agree that it should have been that way all along. It’s almost apathetic. But it’s definitely pathetic.Maybe Rosa shouldn’t have made such a fuss on that bus, hell it was only a seat.”



  • Batty

    I think you are the one needs perspective. Atheists will not get the respect we deserve until we start to support each other instead of letting each other fight alone. What is worse is Atheists undermining the efforts of other Atheists, as some here are doing.

  • AlexHo

    Nice website.
    Now about Ashu Solo… calm down, you’re making yourself plus anyone/anything remotely related to you look VERY foolish.

    Here’s a link to the letter the Mayor got from the Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc.

    The letter refers to these paragraphs from another ruling:

    94.              A truly free society is one which can accommodate a wide variety of beliefs, diversity of tastes and pursuits, customs and codes of conduct. A free society is one which aims at equality with respect to the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and I say this without any reliance upon s. 15 of the Charter. Freedom must surely be founded in respect for the inherent dignity and the inviolable rights of the human person. The essence of the concept of freedom of religion is the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination. But the concept means more than that.

    96.              What may appear good and true to a majoritarian religious group, or to the state acting at their behest, may not, for religious reasons, be imposed upon citizens who take a contrary view. The Charter safeguards religious minorities from the threat of “the tyranny of the majority”.

    I’m no lawyer, in fact I probably have less faith in modern law doing society any good than I do in religion, but here’s my take on the letter to my Mayor from the CCLA:

    - “The state should have no role in imposing, endorsing or promoting a particular religion OVER OTHERS,”
    (A prayer of thanks offered up in public does not imply any negative connotations towards any other belief including that of non-belief. And it does not imply that Christianity is a superior religion, it was simply a thank you.)

    -”nor should it pressure or coerce an individual into a religious practice,”
    (The prayer was offered up to the crowd for them to take or leave as they saw fit. No one was forced to participate and no one was shunned for non-participation.)

    Alex Ho