Open Eyed Talk Of ACHD Prayers

The GUARDIAN welcomes all views and will provide equal space to anyone wishing to offer a guest opinion on this topic.

By Sara Baker,
ACHD Commissioner

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.
Yours truly,
CJ Petrovsky

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I have a lot of respect for Commissioner Baker. She’s a fiscal conservative, and we don’t have enough of them, it seems, in public service. (I also have a distant memory of a flag ceremony my Boy Scouts did at a City Council meeting, back when she was on the City Council… and remember how sincere she was in acknowledging and thanking those boys.)

    I agree with Ms. Baker that “public” prayer has (unfortunately) become a divisive issue over the last 50 years or so. However, she implies that public comments were exclusively or overwhelmingly AGAINST prayers at the ACHD meetings. Is that the case? (Personally, I’ve got nothing against prayers at public meetings. But in the interest of harmony, I’d willingly forgo them, if they offend the easily-offended.)

  2. A deal?

    Thanks for the letter Commission Baker.

  3. Bikeboy. With the exception of one staff member who emailed he was okay with prayer, every staff member who wrote or commented, and every member of the public who commented, were against prayer at the meetings. Not exclusively, but definitely overwhelmingly. Or I guess one could say exclusively but one.

    And a lot more number wise than weighed in on the Holiday Inn Express or the median issue.

  4. Rod in SE Boise
    Feb 28, 2015, 11:57 am

    I am equally offended by the ACHD’s approval of prayer at public government meetings as I am at the ACHD’s disregard of citizens concerns and their kowtowing to business interests that Sara Baker described.

  5. Any time that God, flags, or patriotism are injected into govt, you know that you are about to be fleeced. It is an effective way of silencing dissent, and bullying the majority into unquestioning support. I’ve found that those who are publicly religious are the worst and lowest of snakes.

  6. I might point out that many, many governing bodies open in prayer including Congress and the Idaho Legislature. The US Supreme Court has made it clear that doing so does not violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution. I have two questions for Ms. Baker and Ms. Arnold:

    1) Did the Supreme Court get it wrong?
    2) Should Congress and the Idaho Legislature stop opening in prayer?

    I for one support the move and applaud the decision.

  7. P. Hautzinger
    Feb 28, 2015, 2:40 pm

    I hope Boise Guardian will remind us at election time. These three guys need to look for employment elsewhere.

  8. Guest. I’ll tell you what I have consistently said while debating this issue.

    What is allowable is not always advisable.

  9. The reason we elect these folks is to represent us – the public and the taxpayers. I would guess if you put it to a public vote that prayer would win.

    In any case it is good to see that votes were cast – as they should be – so we can see who agrees or disagrees – so we can see how they represent us – or they do not.

  10. BoiseCitizen
    Feb 28, 2015, 7:01 pm

    Fine, you want to open the meetings with a prayer. Then you better be prepared to use one from the Koran, the Jewish Torah, Hindu Vedas, and whatever book satanists use, to name a few. Otherwise you will be in violation of the constitution of the U.S. by picking ONE religion over all others.

  11. wellll… actually BoiseCitizen that is exactly the case that the Supreme Court decided on last year.

    The city in the case, Greece (ironic eh?) only used Christian prayer for many years and not until someone cried did they have others. So their scorecard was like 408-4, Christian to nonC.
    Court said (5-4) that was okay, because the city was primarily Christian but open to anyone for the prayer. (Apparently the Mormons were banished from Greece long time ago. 😛 )

    So people get what they have- or what they invite- or who requests the prayer.

    For sure ACHD will now have to have some policy: who/when & how.

    Let’s agree with Sara Baker. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  12. Grumpy oleGuy
    Mar 1, 2015, 2:11 am

    I would think that persons of religion would object to such prayer simply because they become so meaningless. They so often are rote expressions, items near the top of the agenda, times of paper shuffling and other “getting settled and ready” activities they certainly have little or no religious implication(s). But, alas, I appear to be in the minority of the minority on this one, too. Since I think most prayer is downright silly and public prayer is the proof of that pudding.

  13. The 3 commissioners pushing this should resign.

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