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  • Writer's pictureJared Cramer

'I know we can do better': Pastor suing Ottawa County gives invocation in tense meeting

In addition to taking a pair of actions related to Administrator John Gibbs, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners discussed and approved several items during a nearly five hour meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Months after filing a religious discrimination lawsuit against the board, Rev. Jared Cramer was in attendance Tuesday to give the opening invocation.

A pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Cramer filed his federal lawsuit in October 2023 claiming Board Chair Joe Moss used his position as chair to “endorse a particular set of religious beliefs and exclude a particular set of religious beliefs.”

He claims to have emailed Moss in May and sent him a letter by certified mail in August requesting to lead the invocation and received no response.

An invitation to lead the invocation was extended in November, after the lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit remains active.

In his prayer Tuesday, Cramer directly referenced previous actions of the board, including changing the motto and closing the DEI department.

“God, in particular I pray for those who have been and continue to be impacted by decisions of this board,” he said. “I pray for families in households that are struggling because of reduced resources in the health department, especially those who will be more food insecure, those who will struggle to get the mental health support they need.

“I pray for people of color in our country, who, when they saw our motto of ‘Where You Belong’ taken away, along with our department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, began to wonder once more if Ottawa County can still be a home for them, if they still belong in a place where freedom does not ring for everyone.”

He also prayed for members of the LGBTQ+ community “whose attempts to understand who they are have been maligned” and “increasingly don’t feel safe, much less welcome,” in the community.

“Above all, loving God, I pray that decency, love and justice would once more come to the forefront of how our county operates, how we treat one another and how those in power allocate resources and talk about vulnerable and marginalized groups,” he said. “I know we can do better, God, if we open our hearts to your love and let that love transform us into agents of your healing.”

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