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Two Spokane council members want to censure Mayor Woodward for event appearance with Matt Shea

Council members plan to bring a resolution to censure the mayor to committee on Monday. It stems from her appearance at a Christian nationalist event with Matt Shea.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Two Spokane city councilmembers are planning to introduce a resolution to censure Mayor Nadine Woodward on Monday.

Councilmembers Betsy Wilkerson and Zack Zappone are sponsoring a resolution to censure Mayor Woodward. The censure stems from her appearance at a Christian nationalist event with religious extremist Matt Shea on Aug. 20, 2023. According to the resolution, Woodward's appearance at the event, which they believe was preplanned, "tarnishes the reputation and image of the city of Spokane."

Woodward joined Shea on stage for prayer at Let Us Worship, a prayer rally with Christian nationalism connotations. The event was led by Sean Feucht, a Christian nationalist preacher denounced by several Pacific NW faith leaders for hateful rhetoric against members of the LGBTQ+ communities.

Many people at the event prayed for victims of the two wildfires that were burning at the time. Shea, however, brought Woodward on stage to pray for her reelection. A video of the event began circulating on X (Twitter) showing Woodward hugging Shea after the prayer. 

Councilman Zappone said this action was inappropriate and paints a negative picture of what Spokane supports.

"A minute before the mayor got up on the stage, Matt Shea made compared homosexual marriage to the wildfires. And that is not appropriate for the mayor to get up there and pray and embrace someone that is making those comparisons in our community," Zappone shared.

This led many to question the mayor's stance on Shea after she and various community leaders called for his resignation as a Spokane Valley representative for his connection to a group training young men in "biblical warfare." 

Shea is a former Washington state representative who was expelled from the State Republican Caucus after an independent investigation found he committed acts of domestic terrorism. Shea founded On Fire Ministries, a religious group criticized for extremism. 

Wilkerson and Zappone, along with Councilmember Karen Stratton, issued a statement on Aug. 22, stating Woodward's "preplanned" appearance at the event "makes clear that she is comfortable embracing dangerous and hateful individuals." Now, Wilkerson and Zappone want to censure the mayor for her actions.

A censure is a formal statement that expresses extreme disapproval of someone or something, though it doesn't carry any physical consequences.

"The point is to say, this has risen to the level where we believe we need to make a comment and say, censure, this is inappropriate," Zappone explained. "This is like a warning that this is not okay in our city."

The draft resolution states the council received a letter from a group of Spokane faith leaders on Aug. 24. The letter reportedly asked council to "hold fast to the separation of church and state, reject attempts to cloak bigotry in religious language, and make clear that civic leaders give no support to the ideology of Christian Nationalism or white supremacy." 

"We've heard from members of our community daily at this point, that are still upset about what happened, and think that is inappropriate, and it is inappropriate," Zappone said. "We've had dozens of faith leaders write in, denouncing the extremism and the hate and calling for a separation of church and state. We've had people write in asking for resignation of the mayor."

The resolution also states the council does not condone Shea or Feucht's behavior or beliefs.

In the weeks following her appearance, Woodward has issued several statements on her attendance, stating that she was unaware of what the event was about. On Wednesday, city spokesperson Brian Coddington sent KREM 2 the following statement on behalf of Woodward:

I do not support their views and did not seek their support. I should have done more to learn the exact details of the event and attendees. I apologize that my appearance with them, although unintentional, has hurt members of our community and caused a distraction when we need to focus on the health and safety of Spokane. It's time to return to the work of putting more officers on patrol in our neighborhoods, improving our streets, getting people connected to the behavioral health and addiction services they need, and adding to our housing supply. 

Wilkerson and Zappone are set to introduce the resolution to the urban experience committee on Monday, Sept. 11.

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