Betty Ann Adam, Postmedia NewsApr 21, 2012 – 5:02 PM ET | Last Updated: Apr 23, 2012 10:06 AM ET
Richard Marjan/Postmedia News
“It made me feel like a second-class citizen. It makes you feel excluded,” atheist Ashu Solo complained after a Saskatoon city councillor said grace at a volunteer appreciation dinner.
SASKATOON — A Christian prayer by a city councillor at a City of Saskatoon volunteer appreciation dinner discriminated against non-Christians, says a volunteer who intends to complain to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Ashu Solo, a member of the city’s cultural diversity and race relations committee, was among the guests at the dinner Wednesday, where Coun. Randy Donauer said a blessing over the food in which he mentioned Jesus and ended with “amen.”
“It made me feel like a second-class citizen. It makes you feel excluded,” said Solo, who is an atheist.
“It’s ironic that I’ve now become a victim of religious bigotry and discrimination at this banquet that was supposed to be an appreciation banquet for the service of volunteers like me.”
The inclusion of a Christian prayer at a municipal government event violates the separation of religion and government, Solo wrote in a lengthy email to Mayor Don Atchison, which he later distributed to the rest of council.
Solo also takes issue with a prayer that “clearly gives primacy to one religion over all other religions” at a municipal event paid for with Saskatoon taxpayer money.
“This is not a Christian country or a Christian city. It is a secular multicultural country and secular multicultural city with people from numerous religions as well as spiritual people, agnostics and atheists,” Solo said.
Municipal officials should not use their offices to “perform religious bigotry, as this is,” or “to impose their own religious beliefs on others,” Solo said.
Atchison said he is sorry to hear Solo felt excluded.
He suggested in the future, the dinner could feature prayers from different religions on a rotating basis. There could even be a dinner with no prayer at all for atheists, he said.
Solo said the rotation idea will not work because there are thousands of religions.
He wants an apology from the mayor and a promise there won’t be any more prayers at City of Saskatoon events. He said if he does not receive those by next Friday, he will proceed with a human rights complaint naming the City of Saskatoon, Atchison and Donauer.
“That will give us a few days to think about it and see what we need to do here,” Atchison said. “I certainly couldn’t give that (assurance and apology) to anyone right now.”
Minocracy is a term used by CIReport to refer to minorities ruling the majority.