UPDATE: Invocation cancelled in Creston following complaints by Humanists

UPDATE (Nov 9, 2022): Following complaints by the BC Humanist Association, Creston's inaugural council meeting proceeding without its planned invocation.

The meeting had originally included an "invocation" prior to the Mayor's Address. An attendee at the ceremony provided the BCHA with an updated agenda from the event (which is also reflected in the updated agenda online) does not include the invocation.

Original story (Published Nov 7, 2022)

The BC Humanist Association is denouncing plans by the Town of Creston to include an "invocation" in its inaugural council meeting tomorrow.

On Tuesday, November 8, at 7pm the newly elected council will be sworn in at the Training Room of the new Creston Fire Rescue building at 1505 Cook Street. In 2018, the Town's "Invocation and Prayer" was delivered by Pastor Harry Haberstock of the Redeemer Lutheran Church.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prayers at municipal council meetings were unconstitutional as they violated the state's duty of religious neutrality. In 2020, the BCHA identified Creston as one of 23 municipalities in BC that began its 2018 inaugural council meeting with a prayer or invocation.

Twice in advance of the release of our report, we wrote to Creston asking the prayers be abolished in future meetings. The City's Corporate Officer replied that "we will make note of your concern for future Inaugural Council meeting agendas."

We wrote again two weeks ago but also received no answer.

"The law is clear: Council meetings are to be secular and inclusive of all residents in the community," said BCHA Executive Director Ian Bushfield. "To centre a member of the Christian clergy at such a meeting is to tell citizens that they have to be religious to participate in civic life."

The BCHA is again asking the City to remove the planned invocation from its inaugural council meeting agenda.

According to the latest census data, nearly a majority (49.8%) of Creston's residents have no religion.

Of the 23 municipalities identified as having a prayer or invocation at their 2018 inaugural council meeting, the BCHA has confirmed that only three are including the practice this year: Clearwater, Parksville and Creston.

Image via Wikimedia

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