Councilors to revisit invocation issue

Two of the Washougal City Council members who previously voted against allowing invocations to occur just prior to council meetings want the council to discuss the issue again.

Paul Greenlee and Brent Boger, and then-council member Joyce Lindsay, issued “nay” votes in September 2014 regarding a resolution that provides for invocations just prior to council meetings. The invocations can include prayers, poems, quotes or inspirational phrases.

This year, Greenlee said during the Jan. 14 city council workshop he would like council to revisit the council policy because several of the same people are the ones saying the invocations.

“I find it disturbing that we have the same people doing it over and over and over again,” he said.

Boger suggested limiting individuals to providing an invocation no more than once a quarter. Greenlee agreed with that at first, but then added, “maybe once every six months for an individual, and once a quarter for an organization.”

Mayor Molly Coston said there used to be more of a variety of people providing invocations, and now there is “less than a handful” of participants.

Greenlee said he has real questions as to whether the invocations are functioning in a positive way at this point.

“Is it time to say, ‘you know, nice experiment, but we’re done?'”

Boger said he does not want to prevent anyone from saying anything they want to at the podium, but he is not sure about providing a designated place for an invocation.

“If someone wants to voluntarily lead us in a spiritual reflection or prayer, fine,” he said. “It should not be part of even the pre-agenda.”

Dan Duringer, a Washougal resident and parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, told council members during the Monday, Jan. 28 council meeting it has been challenging to get local pastors to provide invocations because Mondays are often their nights off.

Duringer plans to contact nonprofits in Washougal to find out if their representatives want to talk about what is on their hearts or provide inspirational thoughts or historical readings before council meetings.

Duringer set up a website, Washougalinvocation.blogspot.com, that provides some background information on the invocation issue in Washougal, and mentions that people who want to provide an invocation at a future council meeting can contact Rose Jewell, assistant to the city manager, at 360-835-8501, Ext. 101 or Rose.Jewell@cityofwashougal.us.

Council members are expected to discuss the invocations issue during their next workshop at 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11.