Pismo council shows wisdom, ends council meeting prayers

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneApril 19, 2014 

Joe Tarica

Religion is, by its very nature, an individual belief system that amalgamates into communities of like-minded people.

Its diversity of type and style runs the gamut from all-encompassing to nonexistent, from the monk who takes an oath of silence and commits to a life of prayer, to the atheist who lends no credence to the idea of a spiritual higher power.

In between the extremes is a near infinite range of possibilities as potentially unique as our personalities and life experiences themselves.

When you layer in the passions of any particular faith with the tendency toward conversion and a long history of strife, it’s no surprise that religion in even its most benign form can become a force for division rather than unity.

It is from this appreciation that our separation of church and state has evolved — and continues to evolve.

With all of this in mind, the Pismo Beach City Council last week showed great wisdom in recognizing the most inclusive of policies regarding faith by discontinuing any form of opening prayer at its meetings.

In doing so, the council, however tacitly, acknowledged that it serves a larger community of like-minded people than those who gather around the symbols of a cross, menorah, minaret or anything else.

As Atheists United board member David Leidner said in Thursday’s story on the decision, “I think what it means first and foremost is we have a government that is welcoming to all of its citizens.”

Yes, the panel ultimately may have used simple financial reasoning that spending taxpayer dollars on this fight was not in the best interests of the city, but however cynical that may sound to some, it’s actually at the core of what we trust our governments to do.

The city is tasked with spending its resources in a method most effective and inclusive of the community it serves.

That means establishing and following policies, however simple, that support such a goal.

While some people may lament the loss of an invocation, they should take heart in the knowledge that there are other, better times and places for that reflection.

Today is Easter Sunday, and that is definitely one of those times.

Around the county, communities will gather in churches and halls to share their faith on a special holiday.

Those are the proper places.

On the next Tuesday night when the Pismo Beach City Council meets in its chambers, no invocation will be given.

Just the same, at that time in that place, this will be as it should.

Joe Tarica is the senior editor at The Tribune. Reach him at or on Twitter @joetarica. Stay updated by adding Joe Tarica on Google+.

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