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Spokane Mayor David Condon will sign law barring local participation in hypothetical Muslim registry

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 1, 2017

The Spokane City Council had a packed audience on Monday when it considered an ordinance the would prevent city government participation in the creation of a religious registry. (Kip Hill / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane City Council had a packed audience on Monday when it considered an ordinance the would prevent city government participation in the creation of a religious registry. (Kip Hill / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Mayor David Condon will sign an ordinance to ban city employee involvement in the creation of a registry based on religion.

The rule was passed unanimously by the City Council Monday night.

Condon’s spokesman, Brian Coddington, confirmed the mayor would sign the ordinance, which was passed after about two hours of mostly supportive public testimony Monday night. City Council President Ben Stuckart proposed the ordinance and brought it to an emergency vote, citing the campaign rhetoric of President Donald Trump about surveillance of Muslims.

“You can’t hide your head in the sand, and prevent – I just want to start crying,” Stuckart said, before calling for the vote Monday. “It’s really happening, these things are really happening.”

City Councilman Mike Fagan said the proposed ordinance was the first he’d heard of Trump proposing a registry for people of a particular faith. On Wednesday, Fagan said he’d heard from many constituents on social media and elsehwere, mostly supporting his decision to back the ordinance. The councilman, who often splits with the progressive majority on the panel, said his vote was based on the Consitution’s basic principle of religious freedom.

“What was one of the primary reasons we fled the king? The freedom to practice our own religion,” Fagan said.

Stuckart, who placed the emergency ordinance on Monday night’s agenda, read from a series of news articles indicating Trump’s campaign position, chief among them reports from November 2015 that, in an interview with NBC News, the future president said “absolutely” the country should create a database for Muslims, though there was some confusion in the following days about what exactly the candidate had agreed to. Trump provided no clarification of his position in December, telling assembled reporters at his Florida resort, “You know my plans” when asked about a registry.

Coddington, Condon’s spokesman, noted that establishing a registry is not something that’s happening or been proposed since Trump took office.

Fagan said the measure wasn’t an emergency, or even necessary, but a law to quell fears conjured by the vague campaign promises of Trump.

“Was it required in order to maintain the peace and public safety? Yeah, I do agree with that,” Fagan said.

The voices of opposition Monday were drowned out by dozens of community activists, college professors, immigration attorneys and self-proclaimed refugees who urged the council to pass the measure. Many of them spoke against an actual executive order signed by Trump last week calling for travel restrictions from seven majority-Muslim countries, something Fagan said wasn’t up for debate Monday night.

“The whole crux of the night, to me, amounted to a huge misunderstanding as to what we had in front of us,” Fagan said.

The debate sparked continued salvos between leaders of the local Democratic and Republican parties. Stephanie Cates, chairwoman of the Spokane County GOP, testified against the proposal Monday night and accused Stuckart of fearmongering and political grandstanding in his 2018 Congressional race. Cates said on social media after the meeting that attendees made vulgar hand gestures when speakers took the podium to oppose the ordinance.

Democratic Party chairman Andrew Biviano, who has been involved in a public spat with Cates since Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodges was booed from the stage at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally last month, accused Republicans of failing “to comfort and soothe those who are understandably worried about whether President Trump will follow through on his stated plans to establish a religious registry.”

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