Residents rush to offer invocations at 2019 assembly meetings

Alaska, News, Uncategorized

Originally published in the Peninsula Clarion

Kenai Peninsula Borough residents have filled nearly all the available time slots to offer an invocation at Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings in 2019.

April 16, when the assembly meets in Seward, and Oct. 8 are the only dates on which no one is assigned to give an invocation, according to the borough’s website.

Kalliste Edeen will be offering the invocation at the Jan. 8 meeting.

At the November meeting, the borough assembly voted to not appeal the Superior Court decision that cited the borough’s invocation policy as unconstitutional. At the same meeting, an updated invocation policy was passed to allow a more diverse group of people the ability to give invocations at assembly meetings.

In October, the borough lost a lawsuit against plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska in a fight over its invocation policy, which allowed certain groups and individuals to offer an invocation at the beginning of each meeting. The plaintiffs, Lance Hunt, an atheist, Iris Fontana, a member of The Satanic Temple, and Elise Boyer, a member of the Jewish community in Homer, all applied to give invocations after the policy was established in 2016. All three were denied because they did not belong to official organizations with an established presence on the peninsula. They sued and the ACLU Alaska agreed to represent them.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson ruled the invocation policy, passed in 2016, violated the Alaska Constitution’s establishment clause, which is a mandate banning government from establishing an official religion or the favoring of one belief over another. Article 1, Section 4 of the constitution provides that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion.”

Kenai Peninsula Borough residents can sign up for the April 16 and Oct. 8 invocations on a first-come, first-served basis through the borough’s website.

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