Minn. man barred from ND bike tour over prayerBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Minnesota man has been barred from an annual bike tour in North Dakota after objecting to a prayer said during the event.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Minnesota man has been barred from an annual bike tour in North Dakota after objecting to a prayer said during the event.
Morgan Christian, 54, of St. Paul, rode the 500-mile CANDISC tour three consecutive years. He objected last summer to a prayer said before a meal at a public high school gym in Turtle Lake, one of several host communities along the route.
Christian expressed his objections to the minister and ride director and in subsequent e-mails to the State Parks and Recreation Department. He said he expected an apology but instead received a letter from the bike tour committee telling him he wasn't welcome back.
"If I don't say something, who am I?" Christian said. "I'm going to be the guy who stands up and says there are people who don't think this is wonderful. It is an imposition. There could be a moment of silence, or at least a warning that prayer is going to be said."
North Dakota Parks and Recreation Director Mark Zimmerman said Christian's attitude was the issue, not his religious beliefs. Ride director Hillary Nelson said Christian disrespected the ride and the town.
"This was Turtle Lake's way of representing their community," she said. "If he didn't like what was going on, he could have left."
Christian said he was just standing up for himself.
"I don't think I raised my voice all that much. Whether I appeared agitated, I don't know," he said, adding that he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation about the issue.
CANDISC stands for Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakawea Country. This year's tour is July 31-Aug. 7.