The GUARDIAN welcomes all views and will provide equal space to anyone wishing to offer a guest opinion on this topic.
By Sara Baker,
When a handful of residents living on Sunset Rim Drive came to ACHD and testified against a proposed Holiday Inn Express, ACHD Commissioners Hansen, Goldthorpe and Woods listened and went against Boise Fire Department access recommendations. When a handful of business owners came and testified against the safety medians at the corner of Franklin and Linder, Commissioners Hansen, Goldthorpe and Woods listened to the business owners and went against the safety median.
Yet when more than a handful of citizens e-mailed or came and testified against a proposed invocation policy this week, when multiple ACHD employees e-mailed or testified against the same invocation policy, ACHD Commissioners Hansen, Goldthorpe and Woods dismissed those concerns and voted to impose this policy.
Commissioner Goldthorpe, who brought up the idea, repeatedly said the policy was not intended to “offend anyone”. Yet everyone who testified, and comments from a Guardian article, indicated that indeed this policy would be offensive.
Commissioner Woods stated this was not about freedom of religion, just freedom. Yet real freedom allows those who want to pray to do so in a way that doesn’t infringe on others. For example, Commissioner Goldthorpe could pray before he came to ACHD for a meeting, or he could pray quietly right before the meeting took place if he needed prayer to help his decision making.
What the three commissioners did on Wednesday night was knowingly approve a policy that will be divisive and cause dissension, not only in the community but in the employee ranks. Rather than bring people together, clarify the minds of the participants and promote comity, it will do nothing of the kind. And to what end?
So the real issue is, in the short history of this particular commission, testimony from citizens seems to sway the vote and win the day, regardless of longstanding policies and recommendations regarding safety. Why then, was overwhelming citizen comment dismissed in this situation? And why is a government agency devoted to maintaining roads and fixing potholes concerning itself with prayer? Roads have no religion. You have to wonder if a preordained agenda trumped public opinion. Was there a deal and why was there a deal? You can decide for yourself:
An open letter to ACHD is shared below from CJ Petrovsky…
In many years of civic activism, including numerous appearances before and interactions with ACHD, I have come to regard you as a professional, dispassionate and well-run agency which listens to citizens, carefully weighs opinions and testimony and generally serves residents in an excellent manner. In short, I have high regard for ACHD and the job it does.
Commissioners Arnold and Baker, Director Wong and Ms. Little, I commend you on your insight to the full dimensions of this change. Commissioners Woods and Hansen, I ask you to consider the matter further.
I am not a religious person and am, in fact, an atheist. I ask you to consider my reaction when the City of Eagle (where I previously lived and where I was very active in civic matters) decided to open Council meetings with an invocation. Though I strongly oppose public, non-denominational prayer, I always felt compelled to stand during the invocation, for fear that my lack of participation would be noted by an official in the group (some of whom were known to be very religious), and my testimony would not be considered in the same light as those testifying who did stand. I believed I would be judged by officials for my lack of belief in what others find a source of strength and that that judgment would, for strong believers on Council, diminish the effect of my testimony, both contemporaneously and in the longer term.
Should I have occasion to appear before ACHD in future, I’ll feel I have to respect your invocation too, although I find it abhorrent.
Paul, this is not freedom for those of us who are not believers. It has the effect of forcing us to act against our beliefs. Whether or not any ACHD Commissioner would/would not judge on the basis of participation is not the point. The perception any might is chilling and coercive.
Ms. Little, were I one you supervise, I would be profoundly grateful for your support of all staff, even those who fall outside the mainstream of religious beliefs in this state. Director Wong, I applaud your strong stand against this decision.
Listen to the 90% of your staff: Substitute a moment of silence so that all feel they come before the Commission on an equal basis.
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