Saskatoon prayer controversy heating up

An Ontario-based atheist group has jumped into a controversy about prayers at official City of Saskatoon events.

The Centre for Inquiry says it supports a Saskatoon man who was offended after city councillor Randy Donauer said a Christian blessing before a meal at a City of Saskatoon volunteer appreciation night.

Ashu Solo, a volunteer who was at the event earlier this month, says he will file a complaint Tuesday with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.

"I was extremely offended by the inclusion of a Christian prayer, which makes non-Christians feel like second-class citizens," Solo said Monday in a news release.

The Centre for Inquiry says the inclusion of a Christian prayer at a taxpayer-funded event violates the separation of religion and government.

The group has been in the news lately after calling for a ban on exorcisms in light of a Saskatoon case of what some have called suspected demonic possession.

The prayer controversy has sparked a number of emails from around Canada, pro and con, to Mayor Don Atchison and city council.

Letters from eight people commenting on the prayer were included in the agenda for Monday's city council meeting.

Clark Bymoen of Saskatoon was among those saying they support Donauer.

"I would encourage councillor Donauer and his worship the mayor to let Mr. Solo take his concerns to Human Rights if he wishes. Christians have rights, too."

Shirley Young from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, also urged council to stick up for prayer.

"Soon we will have to hide in caves or have 666 printed on our foreheads," she wrote.

However, Colleen Beresford of Richmond, B.C., said Solo was correct to take exception to the prayer.

"To the mayor and council, I respectfully say, 'Get with the times,'" she wrote. "Religion is a very personal matter, best left between the individual and their God."

Wayne Plimmer of Sechelt, B.C., said he respects Donauer's beliefs, but he doesn't share them.

"His belief in an imaginary friend is his choice, but he must be respectful and represent all of Saskatoon's people fairly," he said in his email.

The city administration is recommending that the letters be received without any action taken.

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