By Ross Markman
Mayor Bob Rice's vision of having a city chaplain for Havre is now a reality.
After some research and discussion over the past two weeks, the City Council Monday night unanimously agreed to re-establish a city chaplaincy for Havre, a program that was created in April 1987.
"The council feels this is a fair conclusion," Council President Richard Pierson said. "There's no law that says the city can have a chaplain and no law that says it cannot have a chaplain."
Rice said today he's happy with the approval.
"I'm ecstatic about it. It's good for Havre and something I really wanted to get done," he said.
Pierson said the city chaplain will oversee and adhere to the guidelines of the chaplaincy program set in 1987. According to the guidelines, the on-call, unpaid chaplain "shall act as a liaison to the law enforcement department heads and shall be held responsible for matters pertaining to operations" of the chaplain's corps."
Rice said Rowlie Hutton, a preacher at Fifth Avenue Christian Church, volunteered to be Havre's first city chaplain.
Hutton's duties could include assisting police officers or firefighters in comforting a person dealing with death or serious injury to a loved one. Among other things, the chaplain could also be called to help in potential suicide cases or marital quarrels, the guidelines say.
But those guidelines could be dated, Pierson said. That's why the council approved the chaplaincy program with the condition that the language be reviewed by all involved with it.
"The language is 15 years old. I think the Ministerial Association and department heads need to look it over to see if it needs to be updated," he said. "A lot of laws have changed over the years."
Rice first introduced the chaplaincy program to the council two weeks ago, prompting questions from council members about the city's liability and about a possible violation of the separation of church and state. Rice withdrew the idea after talking with area clergy a day later. He said he'd rather not make religion a political issue.
The City Council held a public meeting that night to discuss the proposal. Meanwhile, Pierson had found the old program's guidelines and presented them to the council.
That made the decision much easier, council member Tom Farnham said today.
"This was a past practice. It had already been put into effect. Once we found out about it, we decided to go forth with it," Farnham said. "I think it's a great idea. It was just the way it was presented before, it made us kind of iffy."