by Jennifer Goulet
Coordinator—Mid-Columbia Coalition of Reason
In Kennewick, Washington, a “Resolution affirming freedom of conscience” was defeated in a six-to-one vote by City Council members following strong opposition from the local atheist community and others. The Resolution, drafted by Joseph Backholm—Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington—has been proposed by a city council member in nearby Pasco, as well. The Resolution entreats State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to drop the case against an area florist who refused to sell flowers for the wedding of a gay couple because of her “relationship with Jesus Christ.” The florist lost in court earlier this year and is appealing the decision. The Resolution also seeks to support the decision of business owners who refuse to serve customers if they perceive doing so would be contrary to their sincerely held beliefs, even though such actions directly violate Washington State anti-discrimination laws.
John Trumbo, the council member in Kennewick who proposed the Resolution, had previously put forward another resolution that council meetings should be opened with explicitly Christian prayers, as he believes Christianity was the religion of America’s founding fathers. That resolution received little support from other council members and never came up for a vote.
At the September 15th Kennewick City Council meeting, the room was packed with supporters of the Resolution, many wearing a red flower signifying their solidarity with the florist, who was also in attendance. Several members of the local atheist group, Tri-City Freethinkers, spoke and after passionate public comment both for and against, the Resolution was put to rest. Some council members stated that, while they personally supported the intent of the Resolution, they could not support it as elected officials.
Whether or not Pasco Councilman Bob Hoffman will continue to press the City Council to bring the same Resolution up for a vote remains unknown, but we are monitoring the situation and members of the local atheist community are ready to make another stand against government-approved discrimination.
You can listen to the full audio of the meeting on the Tri-City Freethinkers’ YouTube channel here. Public comments from those opposed to the Resolution begin at the 40-minute mark. It is worth listening to the comments by the six city council members who voted against the Resolution at the end of the recording.