I’ve mentioned before that, at least in California, government organizations run the risk of being sued if they mention Jesus’ name when opening a meeting in prayer. A Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in 2000 that the practice was unconstitutional, and higher courts declined to overturn that ruling. But cities continue to do it.
The invocation has been ruled constitutionally permissible. It’s the promotion of any specific religion that poses a problem. Still, the California farming town of Lodi is having to defend its long-held practice of opening City Council meetings with a prayer. This week the council voted to continue the tradition.
More from the Sacramento Bee:
Robin Rushing, a Lodi resident, said he was offended by a recent prayer at the council meeting.
“I was fooled last week in praying for Jesus Christ,” he said. “I was fooled into standing for that. As a Buddhist, I kind of resent that. I mean no disrespect. But I do feel that this is a political (forum).”
The mayor said he had received nearly 1,500 e-mails on the subject in recent months.
“I understand you have been on the sharp end of many barbs,” Kevin Suess, associate pastor of Vinewood Community Church in Lodi, told the council. “I simply want to stand before you this evening and apologize. That is not Christian behavior.”
The heat intensified when former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt of the national Pray in Jesus’ Name Project said he was prepared to advertise the final vote on billboards if the council “does not stand up to atheists.”
Read the rest here. More on the background, the other cities under fire and the external pressures from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and support from the Alliance Defense Fund at The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.