County invocation delivered without disruption, but not without response
Mustapha Hammida delivered an Islamic blessing without disruption during the invocation of Tuesday night's St. Croix County board meeting, though residents made their voices heard before and after the meeting and in public comment.
Hammida delivered a blessing that encourages success, calling on God to place light in hearts, sight, hearing and tongues.
"Show us the truth as truth and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood and inspire us to abstain from it," Hammida said.
County Administrator Patrick Thompson reached out to the Islamic Society of Woodbury to coordinate the night's invocation after a county staff member suggested the county be more inclusive with the clergy invited to open the meeting.
Board members received emails before the meeting expressing criticism of Hammida as the invocation leader and the Muslim faith. One email, from Plymouth resident Randall Neubauer, stated he would be there to disrupt the meeting. Neubauer did not make his presence known Tuesday night.
The response is another chapter in the ongoing issue of diversity and inclusion in Hudson and the surrounding area that traces back to 2016, when the potential relocation of Syrian refugees to the area led to opposition that some called anti-Muslim.
From that resettlement question, the Citizens for the St. Croix Valley group formed, and its actions since then has prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to add the organization to its list of hate groups this year. Citizens for the St. Croix Valley and the more-recently formed Hudson Inclusion Alliance have been in conflict at many times over the last year over the topic of diversity, especially when it comes to religion.
Before Tuesday's meeting Darla Meyers of the Citizens for the St. Croix Valley and others passed out white roses and a flyer asking for a prayer for "the victims of rape, sex slavery, 'honor' killings, female genital mutilation (FGM), and executions under Islamic Sharia Law."
During public comments after the invocation, Nora Flavin delivered a Christian prayer in Jesus' name asking for wisdom and power to fill all those at the meeting to make the right decisions for the people.
Members of the Hudson Inclusion Alliance were also at the meeting showing solidarity.
John Ramstad thanked the board for expanding its invocation to include Muslim representation.
"There's been some pretty strong messages around we should be fearful of Muslims and that is totally wrong," Ramstad said, speaking after the meeting.
Kerry Geurkink told the board she was there in support of the Muslim community.
"As the St. Croix County continues to grow and diversify we ask that you recognize that not all of us hold the same beliefs nor do we practice the same religion," Geurkink said. "In general we ask that our government representatives be neutral on matters of faith."
Speaking after the meeting, Meyers said her presence there was to educate. She said she believes the United States is a Christian nation, and the God of Islam is not a Christian God.
"We are in agreement with different religions being allowed for the invocation but only so far as they wish to uphold the Constitution of the United States," Meyers said.
Geurkink said after the meeting she felt having an invocation is inappropriate for a government function, but told the board members if it remains on the agenda they should continue to support diversity.
Thompson said as long as the county board continues to have invocations, the county will continue to be inclusive in who leads them.
This is an ongoing story that will be updated as more information is available.