Jackson Hole Rodeo commits to non-sectarian prayer

Dec 18, 2012

The provider of the Jackson Hole Rodeo has agreed to change the event’s opening prayer to be non-sectarian.

Jackson Mayor Mark Barron says the rodeo used to open with a prayer that mentioned Jesus, and his office received complaints about that.

“We have contestants that don’t follow that faith,” Barron said. “We have attendees that come from around the world. And so there were some people who didn’t appreciate the Christian element of the prayer.”

The town’s new concession agreement specifies that the opening prayer will be non-sectarian.

But some say even that isn’t good enough. The Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says promoting religion of any sort at a government-sponsored rodeo could be a constitutional violation.

“The people who put on the rodeo are not merely leasing the property,” said Jennifer Horvath, an attorney for the ACLU. “The town controls the content of the rodeo. It controls what events take place at the rodeo. And because the town exercises so much control over the content itself, it’s not the same thing as just having a lease where someone is coming in to rent the space and putting on a show that the town has nothing to do with.”

The mayor says the town council will consider the ACLU’s comments.