May 2, 2015
Mayor Jim Diodati
4310 Queen Street
Niagara Falls, Ontario
I read “Pope’s prayer draws criticism” in the Niagara Falls Review on Thursday. The article stated that you announced a council meeting would open with a deputation for peace that Councillor Victor Pietrangelo then read.
I’m not going to get into rights, or freedom of religion. What you’ve done by having a prayer written by Pope Pius XII recited as part of a council meeting is exclude everyone who is of a different faith, or no faith at all. You and the city council represent everyone in the city. Not just the Catholics, but everyone.
I respect your beliefs. I respect Councillor Morocco’s beliefs as well, but she seems to be more about division than inclusion. She’s quoted in the article, saying,
What are they going to do? Throw us out of our seats?
Right there she’s invoking an ‘us’ and ‘them’ division that has no place in city government … especially when she’s talking about herself and her constituents!
If Council feels that it’s appropriate to recite a Catholic prayer during council meetings, you’re telling all the city residents who are not Catholics that they are not being represented. It seems that the easiest solution would be to treat all beliefs equally and not incorporate any sort of prayer or deputation as part of the council meetings. Framing this as denying councillors their individual faiths is completely misrepresenting the issue. It’s about denying non-Catholics the special treatment the Catholics on the council currently enjoy. That some councillors think this is entirely appropriate has me wondering why they want to be councillors at all.
Imagine if councillors actively worked toward promoting their own individual economic advantage, rather than the good of the city at large. What would happen? They wouldn’t last long, because they’re supposed to be there for all of us! So why is promoting their own personal religious faiths somehow acceptable?
In preparing this letter, I checked Friday’s Review and found you quoted in “Falls council to drop prayer/invocation?” as saying,
The reason why so many immigrants want to come to Canada is because they are able to express their religion, their customs, their cultures.
I question whether you really understand the issue. Immigrants being free to express their religion is praying in their own faiths at home and being subjected to Catholic prayer if they take enough of an interest in city government to attend city council meetings? That’s freedom of religion to you?
The outrage I read in the article from the councillors at having their special treatment questioned makes me wonder. They’re telling me in no uncertain terms that I’m not part of their privileged group. Shouldn’t city councillors instead treat all the city residents equally and encourage as much inclusion as possible?
So let me ask you plainly, do you and the city councillors represent all the city residents, or do you plan to continue to show favour to the city residents who share your faith. Everyone in Niagara Falls deserves to know.
I look forward to your reply, Mr. Mayor.
CC: Niagara Falls Review, Letters to the Editor
CC: Niagara Falls City Councillor Joyce Morocco
CC: Niagara Falls City Councillor Victor Pietrangelo