Kennewick City Council debates adding prayer to meetings

City Councilman John Trumbo proposed the idea eight years ago, but was shot down. He tried again Tuesday, but the council is split on the decision.

KENNEWICK, Wash. — A Kennewick City councilman has proposed the council begin its meetings with a prayer.

On the agenda for Tuesday night’s council workshop, Councilman John Trumbo proposed legislative prayer. Trumbo said the legislative prayer practice is an effort to gain help and insight from a higher power when making decisions for the City of Kennewick. When asked about the contents of the prayer, Trumbo said it is meant to be brief and solemn.

“Legislate prayer is really meant for the purpose of assisting you in your meeting,” said Lisa Beaton, the council attorney.

In response to the backlash that Councilman Trumbo has received, he said, “These are not good reasons. They are not good reasons. If someone is uncomfortable, I’m sorry.”

Beaton went into the case precedent regarding legislative prayer—and though it has been widely debated, she came to the conclusion during her presentation that there is precedence upheld on the Supreme Court-level. She also said the Kennewick City Council used to practice legislative prayer from 1976 to 1992 before it was discontinued. Trumbo said he proposed to bring back the practice in 2014 but the idea was shot down by the council 1-6.

If the city approves the legislative prayer, parameters were suggested. This could mean that only religious organizations with an established presence in Kennewick could perform the prayer.

Despite there being the presence of practicing Muslims in Kennewick, said Councilman Chuck Torelli, there is not an established presence within the City of Kennewick, and if parameters were set within the city limits only, those faiths would not be represented.

One councilman said that he didn’t want other city’s religious groups to hold prayers at the meetings. “We are elected as the city of Kennewick. I don’t need to go outside of the city border for that, in my opinion, I think it should be those organizations that are set up in the city of Kennewick,” said Brad Beauchamp, who attended the meeting virtually.

Not everyone on the council is convinced this is what direction the city should take. “City Council is not a place for that,” Councilman Chuck Torelli said. Councilman Jim Millbauer agreed. He said once the council opens up to legislative Christian prayer, the council doesn’t have a right to discriminate against the prayer or the content.

“I just am very frustrated right now because I feel like, well, I know this is very important to different people in different ways. I feel like it’s a distraction from what we are here to do,” said Gretl Crawford, Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem.

The six council members present explained their perspective on the matter, as was the goal of the workshop.

Marie Mosley, Kennewick City Manager said, “With the six council members we have here, I hear three say we shouldn’t move forward, and three say we should.”

The council said it will take up the matter at a future meeting, likely July 19 or August 2 during their next regular council meetings.

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