County commissioner meeting prayer touches off strong debate in high country

Republican Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson recently opened a can of worms by getting his fellow commissioners to agree to starting meetings with a prayer, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Signed off on by fellow GOP commissioners John Martin and Tom Jankovsky, the practice has touched off a debate in the letters to the editor section of the Glenwood Post Independent:

Mike Samson
“Boy, it didn’t take long for all those Republicans at the county commissioner meeting to start spouting prayer. This is right out of W’s playbook,” wrote Ken Fry of Glenwood Springs. “When are these people in elected office going to understand that religion has no place in government or politics? The last thing I want my county commissioners to start a meeting with is a fairy tale or false hope.”

But Andi Duplesys of Silt wrote that people take separation of church and state too far: “It’s difficult for me that people get so offended about that. It’s such a positive thing.”

Samson says he’s just trying to be more like the federal government: “The U.S. Congress begins with a prayer. I think that’s a good example for us to follow.”

Various atheist and freedom of religion groups weighed in that the commissioners should avoid the controversy altogether or just observe a moment of silence like the Rifle City Council. If not, they need to make the prayer open to everyone, including atheists.

Samson said he’d be open to atheists participating in the prayer. It seems, though, a prayer from an atheist might wind up resulting in the suggested moment of silence.

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