HYRUM, Utah — The Hyrum City Council is being criticized for allowing the closing prayer at the city's Fourth of July program to be given in Spanish.
Councilwoman Stephanie Miller was in charge of coordinating the city's Independence Day celebration. Miller said she didn't intend to offend anyone, but wanted to accommodate the nervous Spanish-speaking pastor asked to deliver the prayer.
Maria Montalvo, of Hyrum's Church of God Ebenezer, asked if the prayer could be offered in Spanish and translated into English.
"She does speak some English, but she was uncomfortable with standing in front of everyone and speaking English," Miller said. "She asked if we would mind if she did it in Spanish, and we didn't see that there was a problem with that as long as it was translated."
The decision has been criticized as unpatriotic and wrong in a flurry of recent letters to the Logan Herald Journal. One letter, from LaVon G. Hanson, a World War II veteran from Logan, called for the city council to be "impeached and sent to Mexico."
Councilman Paul James said he was surprised to hear the Spanish prayer but didn't think it was inappropriate, "because listening to the prayer, it was very patriotic."
Miller said she has apologized to some critics, but does not regret the decision. Still, she said she won't have the prayer offered in Spanish next year.
And while some have suggested that the city bar prayers of any kind at the patriotic program, Miller said that won't happen.
"We are Americans (and have) freedom of religion," she said. "We're not forcing anybody to participate that doesn't want to."
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