The timing and location of the town meeting on the budget gap in Juneau on Friday evening is most unfortunate. I have a great deal of respect for Rep. Hudson, understand that the officials participating are sacrificing a great deal of their time and attention, and believe the budget gap to be a truly serious problem facing this Legislature. However, there are plenty of public spaces in Juneau the same size or larger than Aldersgate United Methodist Church to accommodate a meeting of the people.
Why at a church? Why on a Friday night? Some among us begin religious observations at sundown Friday. Others among us practice other faiths or have no faith at all. A church, by definition is a sacred space, set apart from the world. As well, different faiths set space apart from one another. Places of worship bear a full array of symbols that are offensive to some, benign to others, and yet endearing to those that arranged them. Though audibly silent, the message in these symbols to some is truly deafening. I would no sooner hold a church service at the Capitol than I expect persons elected and hired to run our government to hold a public meeting in a church.
While some would argue that public meetings used to be held in churches, those days are past. We are no longer living in homogenized rural days where the local church and the one-room school house were the municipal center. As for the timing, Friday night for a public meeting is as ridiculous as timing the meeting for Sunday morning if we wish to live in a truly inclusive community.
When we time and place our public events, as much respect should be demonstrated for the First of Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Orthodox Christmas, the Buddah's Birthday and Kwanza as is generally held for Christmas and Easter. A public meeting is not truly a public meeting when held in a place where at any other time of the day or week any among our citizenry would not be or feel welcome or, given the decor, would not be comfortable to truly express themselves.
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